The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is home to more than 75 penguins of four species.


Detroit Zoo - Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

Gentoos are recognized by their white stripes extending across their heads and their bright red-orange bills. These birds also have paddle-shaped, peach-colored feet and fine feathers that help them glide easily and quickly through the water. Gentoos are the third-largest penguins, after the king and emperor penguins.

Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

Gentoos are recognized by their white stripes extending across their heads and their bright red-orange bills. These birds also have paddle-shaped, peach-colored feet and fine feathers that help them glide easily and quickly through the water. Gentoos are the third-largest penguins, after the king and emperor penguins.

 Animal Facts:
  • Size: 20-24 inches tall
  • Weight: 10-15 pounds
  • Diet: Fish and krill (varies by location)
  • Reproduction: During mating season, females will lay two spherical, white eggs which both the males and females take turns incubating for over a month until the eggs hatch.
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years (wild); 20-30 years (captivity)
  • Conservation Status: Near Threatened
 Fun Fact:
  • Gentoo penguins can often be seen “flying” out of the water and landing on their feet.

Detroit Zoo - King Penguin

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

Vivid orange feathers on the king’s heads and upper chests distinguish it from other penguin species. They are the second-largest penguins, after the emperor penguins.

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

Vivid orange feathers on the king’s heads and upper chests distinguish it from other penguin species. They are the second-largest penguins, after the emperor penguins.

 Animal Facts:
  • Size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Weight: 20-30 pounds
  • Diet: Mainly fish; some squid
  • Reproduction: Males and females “dance” – they stand tall, trumpet and then bow to each other to start the courtship ritual. Once a mate has been selected, they breed for life. Males incubate the eggs for approximately 54 days under a pouch of belly skin – called a brood pouch – that keeps them at the penguins’ internal body temperature.
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years (wild); 20-30 years (captivity)
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
 Fun Facts:
  • King penguins have special glands that filter salt from the water.
  • They can dive to great depths and their eyes are adapted to seeing underwater; a powerful lens results in shortsightedness on land.

Detroit Zoo - Macaroni Penguin

Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

The scientific name for the macaroni penguins, Eudyptes chrysolophus, describes the distinguishing features of the birds. Eudyptes means “good diver” and chrysolophus means “with a golden crest”. It has distinct yellow and black plumes extending backward from their beaks.

Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

The scientific name for the macaroni penguins, Eudyptes chrysolophus, describes the distinguishing features of the birds. Eudyptes means “good diver” and chrysolophus means “with a golden crest”. It has distinct yellow and black plumes extending backward from their beaks.

 Animal Facts:
  • Size: About 2 feet tall
  • Weight: Average of 11 pounds
  • Diet: Mostly krill; sometimes fish
  • Reproduction: Breeding season starts in October and November. Males incubate the eggs for approximately 35 days with some help from females. Males will brood the chicks after hatching and during the guard stage for about three weeks.
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years (wild); 20-30 years (captivity)
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
 Fun Facts:
  • The macaroni’s plumes reminded early English explorers of an 18th century man called a “macaroni” who wore flashy feathers in his hat – thus the name.
  • Their wings have evolved for use as flippers.
  • They can hold their breath for up to three minutes.

Detroit Zoo - Rockhopper Penguin

Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)

Rockhoppers have black and white feathers, with yellow feathers extending from their eyebrows backwards. They are the smallest of the six species of crested penguins.

Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)

Rockhoppers have black and white feathers, with yellow feathers extending from their eyebrows backwards. They are the smallest of the six species of crested penguins.

 Animal Facts:
  • Size: 16-18 inches tall
  • Weight: Average of 7 pounds
  • Diet: A mix of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods
  • Reproduction: Females and males share egg-incubation duties for 35 days. Males will brood the chicks after hatching and during the guard stage for about three weeks.
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years (wild); 20-30 years (captivity)
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
 Fun Facts:
  • The name rockhopper comes from these birds’ ability to jump off cliffs. When on land, they tend to hop. They can jump up to 6 feet.
  • Males can produce “penguin’s milk” for hatchlings if the females do not come back with food.