Unusual penguins

Leucistic Adelie on Gardner Island is starkly white next to its black and white relatives.
Leucistic Adelie on Gardner Island (Photo: Jan Wallace)
Albino Adélie penguin near DavisAlbino Adelie penguin near DavisThis Adélie fledgling is covered in white feathers and downLeucistic Adélie penguinLeucistic Gentoo penguin from Chilean base on Antarctic PeninsulaLeucistic adelie penguin lies on belly in the snow and is surrounded by its colonyThis royal penguin is a orange/cream colour.

Various types of unusual penguins call Antarctica and the subantarctic home, including hybrid penguins (offspring of cross species mating), or penguins with unusual plumage. Both hybrid penguins and penguins with non-standard plumage are relatively rare.

In the case of abnormally coloured penguins, it is not known whether their colour patterns are genetic (i.e. if these penguins were to breed, would their offspring be similarly coloured?). It is also not clear whether abnormal colouring affects the penguins breeding success. Depending on their colouring some of these penguins may not survive for long as they may be relatively conspicuous to their predators.

Leucistic or isabelline penguins, i.e. penguins with little (diluted) to no pigmentation (melanin) in their feathers respectively are not albinos, which have no melanin at all throughout their bodies. Birds with this genetic characteristic are found more commonly within social, communal breeding bird colonies and the occurrence rate among Adélie penguins is calculated as 1:114,000. Historically Adélie penguins of this kind have been recorded in the Vestfold Hills. An albino (not sure how loosely this term may have been used) was first noted on Long Peninsula in 1969 and thus the colony is named Albino Rookery.