Are there penguins in Canada?

Penguins are interesting articles, known for the funny way they walk and iconic black and white tuxedo-looking coats. Penguins only live in very specific parts of the world. Even though penguins are known as cold-weather birds—and they do, in fact, live in the Antarctic—they also live in more temperate parts of the world. There are no native penguins living in Canada and if you want to see some, you have to visit the zoo.

There is a wide variety of penguin species in different habitats around the world. We’ll look at why there are no native penguins in Canada, the different types of penguins, and where you can visit penguins in Canada.

Why are there no penguins in Canada?

The northernmost region of Canada is in the Arctic, as it borders the Arctic ocean. It is very cold in northern Canada (territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut), with some areas that are frozen year-round. There are so many species of birds in the Arctic, such as puffins and terns. 

Some people might think that this is a natural habitat for penguins, but there are actually no penguins in this region. There are, however, penguins in the southern hemisphere instead of in the northern hemisphere and arctic.

Here are some reasons why there are no penguins in the arctic and, therefore, in Canada:

  • Penguins are flightless birds, and there are no flightless birds living in the Arctic. Without being able to fly, they could not get away from natural land predators. 
  • Penguins nest on land, making them vulnerable to predators. In the arctic, they would have been prey to foxes, bears, and wolves.

Ultimately, penguins did not evolve to live in the arctic, as they did in the antarctic. Back in 1936, explorers tried to bring penguins to the north to try to start a population of penguins. They were settled in the Lofoten islands, but the initial population did not survive longer than a few years. 

Types of penguins

There are 17 penguin species, which all live exclusively in the southern hemisphere. The only exception to this is the Galapagos penguin, who live just barely in the northern hemisphere in the Galapagos Islands, which is right on the equator. 

Penguin species all share the iconic black and white “tuxedo” look. However, they also vary significantly in size, weight, fur, and features. Some have yellow tufts of hair or sections of their fur. There are also a number of adaptions that penguins have made to fit their environment. For example, short wings help with swimming, sharp beaks are good for catching fish, and stiff tails help with balance. 

Penguins can vary significantly in their size, as well. The smallest species are just 15 inches, whereas others can reach 3.5 feet. In terms of weight, they range between 2-80 pounds! The Emperor penguin is the largest species and perhaps what most people think about when they picture a penguin. These animals live up to 20 years in the wild, average 45 inches and up to 80+ pounds. 

Penguin habitats

As mentioned, penguins only live in the wild in the southern hemisphere. They actually live on every continent in the southern hemisphere, including South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica. 

The general habitat of penguins is oceans and coasts. They like to live on islands in remote areas because there are fewer land predators. Because they cannot fly, they can’t get away from fast land predators, and so prefer remote areas that are isolated. Penguins are adapted to living in the sea and can spend a lot of time in the water. 

A lot of people only think of penguins living in cold temperatures, but some species of penguins enjoy more temperate climates. In addition to Antarctica, here are some other areas where penguins live in nature:

  • Australia: Research suggests that penguins actually originated in Australia and New Zealand. Penguins live on the southern coast of Australia that is cool and temperate. There are also islands like Phillips Island, which has a colony of 32,000 penguins! 
  • Argentina: The long coastline of Argentina with the chilly, cold ocean makes it a perfect home for penguins.
  • Falkland Islands: This remote group of Islands in the south Atlantic Ocean has a population of only 3,500 people, but many, many more penguins! 
  • Galapagos Islands: Located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are famous for diverse wildlife. The penguins that live here are the only species that live in the northern hemisphere. They are the smallest of all species, as well.
  • South Africa: This is a new home and habitat for penguins, with colonies being established near Cape Town in just the 1980s. There are also penguins in other nearby countries on the southern coast of Africa like Angola and Mozambique.

This is just a selection of some places around the world that you can see penguins in the wild. If you are travelling to any of these regions, remember that they are still wild animals, despite how cute! Take a look from a distance and follow the recommended guidelines of authorities in the area.

Seeing penguins in Canada

There are no native penguins in Canada, but there are penguins in zoos and aquariums. Penguins are a fairly common animal in zoos, so it is likely that any major zoo or aquarium will have some that you can go visit. 

Here are some places you can visit penguins in Canada:

  • The Calgary Zoo is home to four species of penguins: Gentoo, Humboldt, King, and Rockhopper Penguins.
  • The Vancouver Aquarium is home to the African penguin, which is native to the southern coasts of Africa.
  • The Toronto Zoo is home to a number of African penguins.


Penguins are adorable animals known for their black and white coats, their ability to swim and not fly, and their signature waddle-walk. Penguins are native to the southern hemisphere, with colonies of them living in all continents there, including Antarctica, Africa, Australia, and South America. 

There are no penguins native to Canada, and the only penguins in the country are in captivity. Many Canadian zoos and aquariums are home to a variety of penguin species. They are a great place to see and appreciate these amazing animals while learning more about their characteristics and habitats.

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