Penguins are the most conspicuous residents of the Falklands. Five species breed on the islands; kings, rockhoppers, gentoos, magellanics and macaronis. Despite macaronis being the most numerous penguin species in the world, they are not commonly seen in the Falklands, and therefore we concentrated on photographing the kings, rockhoppers, gentoos and magellanics.
King penguins are the most impressive and beautiful species in the Falklands. They stand almost a metre tall and can weigh up to 16kg. The Falklands are at the limit of their global range and consequently there are only around 400 breeding pairs on the islands, almost all of which are found at a single site called Volunteer Point. We spent one night at this location and were blessed by a few fleeting periods of good light during which we rushed around frantically taking as many different shots as possible!
Gentoos are the second largest species and are recognisable by the white stripe extending across the top of their heads like a bonnet. They breed in large colonies which can be situated a kilometre or more inland. Each morning the penguins make the long journey down to the sea where they eat fish and crustaceans. In the afternoon they return to the colony to feed their chicks. On Sealion Island we could see a gentoo colony from our bedroom window and this allowed us to pop out and photograph them at all times of day (and night!).
We found magellanic penguins on every island we visited. Unlike the other penguins in the Falklands, magellanics live in burrows. They are very shy and would scarper underground if we ever got too close… this made photographing them quite a challenge! However, by keeping a low profile and approaching painstakingly slowly, we were able to get close enough to photograph a pair standing in front of their burrow (below, right).
Rockhoppers are the smallest and most common penguin species in the Falklands. Rockhoppers get their name because they move around by hopping with both feet together. We were constantly amazed by their ability to tackle the most challenging terrain and by the bravery they exhibit when leaping between ledges on precipitous cliff faces! Rockhoppers live in large colonies often mixed in with albatross or imperial shags. They are noisy and quarrelsome little creatures but their comical antics and inquisitive personalities make them very endearing and they soon became our favourite animal of the trip!
The picture above is one of our favourites; it shows rockhopper penguins showering under a freshwater spring. Throughout the day the penguins were splashing around in the water and squabbling for the best spot. Taking this shot involved lying under part of the waterfall for several hours… we got completely soaked and covered in some rather unsavory stuff which earned us the nickname the “Guano Brothers”.
View more penguin photos in our Penguin Galleries.