Penguin v Puffin: What is Your Favourite?

penguin v puffin

Endearing in both appearance and character, the penguin and puffin are the two birds most likely to soften even the hardest of souls.

With their white bellies, black overcoats and entertaining antics, penguins and puffins ooze personality.

So do you have a favourite?  Maybe these facts and photographs will help you decide:


Penguin v Puffin

To decide on your favourite, maybe it would help to see them standing next to each other.  Alas this will never happen in the wild: penguins live in the southern hemisphere, whilst puffins don’t venture below the equator, calling the northern hemisphere home.

penguin v puffin

Both are social creatures, migrating to large breeding colonies in their respective summer months.  Both birds usually mate for life with both male and female sharing the parenting duties.

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There are 17 different species of penguins and 4 species of puffin.  Whilst their size varies, the puffin is generally the smaller of the two, reaching only 30 centimetres in length.  The largest of the penguins, the Emperor, can reach 1.2 metres.

Interesting Facts About Puffins_Kellie Netherwood-7

Quite possibly the strongest difference between the two is their ability in the air.  Puffins are strong flyers, reaching speeds of more than 80 kilometres by flapping their wings up to 400 times a minute.  Penguins can’t fly.

But this doesn’t make the puffin more graceful.  Watching a puffin coming into land is as comical as a penguin waddling across the ground.

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The breeding season is a very stressful time for both penguin and puffin, with predatory birds constantly circling the colonies for the opportunity to snatch an egg or a chick.  But spare a thought for the penguins of the world’s southernmost continent that also sit below the leopard seal on the Antarctic food chain.

Neko Harbour, Antarctica

The penguin and puffin both diet on fish, hunting for their food by diving underwater.  But whilst both are strong swimmers, using their wings to propel themselves through the water, puffins usually only spend 20 or 30 seconds at a time beneath the surface.

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Whilst they hunt for food in similar ways, they have different transporting techniques.  Penguins store food in their stomachs and regurgitate it to feed their chicks.  Puffins have ridges at the top of their bill allowing them to carry the fish back to their pufflings.

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But although they are unique in their own right, the penguin and the puffin have one undeniable similarity: they are both adorable!

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Choosing a favourite is a close call, but for me, it’s tough to look past the tuxedoed and proud bird of the south – the penguin!

Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

What is your favourite?  The penguin of the south or the puffin of the north?


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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at


  1. Nice post Kellie.

    I’ve seen plenty of penguins but puffins are a different story. What do you think are the best puffin viewing locations?

    • I saw them from a distance (from a zodiac) on an Arctic tour in Svaldbard last year and as 60% live near Iceland, I imagine that is a good location. But the Farne Islands in Northumberland (UK) has my vote for one of the best locations. It’s affordable, accessible and you are able to visit two islands that are only a few km from the shore, Staple Island and Farne Islands. Both have good sized puffin colonies during the breeding season (June and July are the best months) and you are able to get incredibly close. I spent a long weekend there in June and loved it.

  2. I really want to see puffins but we usually don’t travel in summer…a change,of plan may be required.

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