A penguin with yellow hair sounds so exotic, doesn’t it! Would you believe that several penguin species with yellow hair actually do exist? Or rather, yellow crests or feathers on their heads! Types of penguin with yellow hair include the Royal, Macaroni, Rockhopper, King, Emperor, Erect Crested, Snares, Fiordland and Yellow Eyed Penguin. And in this article, you will get to meet them all.
- Species of Penguin With Yellow Hair
- Royal Penguin
- Macaroni Penguin
- Rockhopper Penguin
- King Penguin
- Emperor Penguin
- Erect Crested Penguin
- Snares Penguin
- Fiordland Penguin
- Yellow Eyed Penguin
While it may not make immediate intuitive sense why penguins would grow yellow feathers, nature always has its reasons. In this article, meet the penguins with yellow hair and learn more about what makes each species so delightfully unique.
Species of Penguin With Yellow Hair
As flightless birds, with wings better adapted for open sea swimming, penguin feathers often appear less like feathers and more like hair. Just like all other bird species though, they are feathered and not furry! And their feathers truly are extraordinary in both function and fashion.
So let’s meet each of these special penguin species with yellow hair now.
The Royal Penguin With Yellow Hair
The Royal penguin, Eudyptes schlegeli, belongs to a group of penguins known as crested penguins. These penguins have distinctive yellow and orange feather head plumes. People often confuse Royal penguins and Macaroni penguins. These two species are such close relatives that they can breed together.
Royal penguins are classified as near threatened. Fortunately, current populations are thought to be stable now that hunting them for their oil has been banned.
The Macaroni penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus, has its yellow hairlike crest feathers to thank for its whimsical common name. At the time these penguins got their name, the English word “macaroni” was used to mean a flamboyantly dressed man rather than a tasty piece of pasta.
These penguins are nearly indistinguishable from their close relatives the Royal penguins except for their black chins (Royal penguins have white chins).
The Rockhopper Penguin With Yellow Hair
The term Rockhopper penguin is used to refer to three very closely related penguin species: the Eastern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome filholi), the Southern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome) and the Northern rockhopper (Eudyptes moseleyi).
All three species of Rockhopper penguins sport bright cheery yellow “eyebrows” and longer yellow feather plumes behind each red eye.
The appropriately named King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is one of the two largest penguin species in the world – only their close relative the Emperor penguin is larger. They have two sub-species, Aptenodytes patagonica patagonicus and Aptenodytes patagonica halli.
These stunning birds display gorgeous striking yellow and orange sunrise/sunset markings on their lower bill, upper chest and behind the eye area. At a time when so many penguin species are in decline, thankfully the global population of King penguins is said to be thriving.
Emperor Penguin With Yellow Hair
Emperor penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri, are the largest of all the penguin species. Their yellow hair is slightly less visible than that of their near relatives the King penguins. The location of the Emperor penguin’s yellow and orange markings is quite similar to that of the Royal penguin’s. The yellow feathers grow just behind the eye areas on either side of the head and on the lower bill as well as a slight splash just below the neck region.
These majestic penguins live and breed entirely on sea ice islands. Their population is in heavy decline due to climate change.
Erect Crested Penguins
The Erect Crested penguin, Eudyptes sclateri, have gorgeous bristly feather plumes of yellow and black that stand straight up above each eye. The appearance is of lush yellow lashes ringing each eye.
These beautiful penguins breed on only two small islands near New Zealand. They are considered to be an endangered species today. They prefer to spend the entire winter season at sea and only come to land to breed.
The Snares penguin is also called the Snares Island penguin or the Snares Crested penguin. Their formal scientific name is Eudyptes robustus. Their name comes from New Zealand’s Snares Islands, a group of islands where these penguins prefer to breed.
Snares penguins also belong to the greater group of crested penguins. For these penguins, their crest comes in the form of a single arched line of yellow feathers above each eye, giving them the appearance of eyebrows raised in a state of perpetual surprise.
The Fiordland penguin, Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, is also called the Fiordland Crested penguin, thick-billed penguin, New Zealand crested penguin, tawaki and Victoria penguin. For these penguins, their crest begins where their upper beak ends in a streak of yellow feathers that look a lot like a particularly bushy set of yellow eyebrows. These “eyebrows” continue up and over the head to hang down the back of the neck.
Intriguingly, Fiordland penguins are nocturnal. These shy birds are classified as a vulnerable species. They are becoming increasingly rare due to introduced predators and human activity in their traditional island and shoreline breeding areas.
Yellow Eyed Penguin With Yellow Hair
Out of all the penguins with yellow hair you have met thus far, the Yellow Eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes, might be the most unique in terms of coloration. Reason being, in addition to yellow hair, these penguins have pale yellow eyes. They also grow yellow feathers that start beneath each eye and form a yellow feather headband of sorts that meets behind the head.
These penguins are also called the Richland penguin, hoiho, Yellow Crowned penguin and Waitaha. However, these names actually refer to two now-extinct closely related penguin subspecies. The Yellow Eyed penguin is now also considered endangered.
Your Favorite Penguin With Yellow Hair
Now that you have had a chance to meet the many species of penguins with yellow hair, do you have a favorite? Post your top picks in the comments section.
Find Out More About Unusual Birds
- Thomas et al. “Vibrational spectroscopic analyses of unique yellow feather pigments (spheniscins) in penguins.” Royal Society Publishing, 2013.
- Williams et al. “Hidden keys to survival: the type, density, pattern and functional role of emperor penguin body feathers.” Royal Society Publishing Biological Sciences, 2015.
- Greenwald et al. “Penguins.” Center for Biological Diversity, 2022.