Antarctica Wildlife

The animals of Antarctica are a main attraction for people who visit the continent. Below we've shown many of the species commonly seen on our Antarctica cruises, including trips that visit South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

Note: The letters in parentheses next to each species name shows where that species is likely to be seen. The letters represent the following areas:

A = Antarctic Peninsula*
S = South Georgia
F = Falkland Islands
P = Pelagic (open ocean)

* Includes the South Shetland and South Orkney Islands

Penguins

The chance to see a variety of penguin species in their natural habitat is a major draw for many people who visit Antarctica. On our Antarctic Peninsula trips, we typically see three species: Adélie, gentoo and chinstrap penguins. On trips that include South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, we visit massive king penguin colonies at the former, and see rockhopper and Magellanic penguins at the latter. Emperor penguins are found in more remote regions of Antarctica, primarily in the Weddell Sea, and trips to see them are offered less frequently. You can learn more about some of the penguins species listed below by clicking on the species name shown in orange under the photos.

Adelie penguin Chinstrap penguin Gentoo penguin Macaroni penguin King penguin
Adélie penguin (A) Chinstrap penguin (A, S) Gentoo penguin (A, S, F) Macaroni penguin (A, S, F) King penguin (S, F)
 
Emperor penguin    
Emperor penguin (A) Magellanic penguin (F) Rockhopper penguin (F)    

Seals & Sea Lions

Seals and sea lions are a common sight on nearly all of our cruises. At the Antarctic Peninsula we regularly have up-close encounters with crabeater, Weddell and leopard seals—the latter a top predator in Antarctica. At South Georgia the beaches are populated with Antarctic fur seals and massive, blubbery southern elephant seals. During breeding season we may witness alpha males—both fur seals and elephant seals—agressively defending their breeding territory against challenging interlopers. Sightings of South American fur seals and South American sea lions are much less likely, but nonetheless possible.

Leopard seal Antarctic fur seal Elephant seal Crabeater seal Weddell seal
Leopard seal (A, S) Antarctic fur seal (A, S) Southern elephant seal (A, S, F) Crabeater seal (A) Weddell seal (A, S)
 
South American fur seal South American sea lion      
South American fur seal (F) South American sea lion (F)      

Whales & Dolphins

When we're not ashore in Antarctica, we're often on our ships' decks watching for whales and dolphins. Humpbacks, orcas and minke whales are the most commonly seen species on our trips. We often see humbpacks spyhopping, bubble-net feeding and breaching—all done with a stunning backdrop of otherworldly Antarctic scenery! On many trips dolphins will "ride the bow"—swimming in the wake made by the bow of our ship. For travelers intrested in seeing whales, we often recommend going later in the cruise season—from late-February through March.

Humpback whale Antarctic Minke whale Orca whale Southern right whale Fin whale
Humpback whale (A, S, F, P) Antarctic minke whale (A, S, F, P) Orca whale (A, S, F, P) Southern right whale (A, S, P) Fin whale (A, S, F, P)
 
Blue whale Sperm whale Commersons dolphin Dusky dolphin  
Blue whale (A, P) Sperm whale (S, F, P) Commerson's dolphin (S, F) Dusky dolphin (F)
 
 

Below are more whales and dolphins known to inhabit the areas we visit in Antarctica, but very rarely seen (photos currently unavailable):

  • Southern bottlenose whale (A, S, F, P)
  • Sei whale (A, S, F, P)
  • Peale's dolphin (F, P)

Birds of Antarctica

You don't have to be a hardcore birder to appreciate the avian life we see in Antarctica. From skuas making aerial raids for penguins' eggs to wandering albatrosses with their impressive wingspans that can reach up to 11 feet, our fine-feathered friends will keep our attention whether we're at sea or on shore. Cruises that include a visit the Falkland Islands may be of particular interest to birders as the variety of species we see there is significant.

Antarctic petrel Antarctic skua Antarctic tern Black-browed albatross Blackish oystercatcher
Antarctic petrel (A, P) Antarctic skua (A, P) Antarctic tern (A) Black-browed albatross (S, F, P) Blackish oystercatcher (F)
 
Brown-hooded gull Cape petrel Falkland steamer duck Falkland steamer duck Gray-headed albatross
Brown-hooded gull (F) Cape (pintado) petrel (A, S, F, P) Falkland steamer duck - female (F) Falkland steamer duck - male (F) Gray-headed albatross (S, P)
 
 
Imperial shag Female kelp goose Male kelp goose Kelp gull Light mantled sooty albatross
Imperial shag (S) Kelp goose – female (F) Kelp goose – male (F) Kelp gull (A, S, F) Light-mantled sooty albatross (S, P)
 
Magellanic oystercatcher Northern giant petrel Long-tailed meadowlark Silvery grebe Snow petrel
Magellanic oystercatcher (F) Northern giant petrel (S, P) Long-tailed meadowlark (F) Silvery grebe (F) Snow petrel (A, P)
 
Snowy sheathbill South Georgia pintail South Georgia pipit Southern giant petrel Striated caracara
Snowy sheathbill (A, S, F) South Georgia pintail (S) South Georgia pipit (S) Southern giant petrel (S, F, P) Striated caracara (F)
 
Two-banded plover Female upland goose Male upland goose Wandering Albatross White tufted grebe
Two-banded plover (F) Upland goose - female (F) Upland goose - male (F) Wandering albatross (S, P) White-tufted grebe (F)
 
Yellow-bridled finch Wilsons storm petrel
Yellow-bridled finch (F) Wilson's storm petrel (A, S, P)      
 

Interested in Seeing Antarctica's Legendary Wildlife?

We offer dozens of cruises each year to see Antarctica's wildlife—and a whole lot more! Be sure to visit our Antarctica cruises page for detailed information about our trips, or call us at 800-368-0077 M–F, 8AM–5PM Pacific Time and talk with one of our cruise specialists. (Outside the US and Canada call 206-463-5362.)

 

 
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