12 Birds That Look Like Penguins: Bird Guide

Penguins are one of the most beloved birds in the world. They live in various habitats and have evolved to become large, flightless birds well-adapted to cold climates. Birds that look like penguins are a fascinating group resembling the iconic penguin. These birds share many physical characteristics with their South Pole counterparts, such as black-and-white coloring, a waddling gait, and even similar nesting behaviors. However, despite their similarities, these birds are not related to penguins.

What Are Penguins?

Penguins are some of the most beloved creatures on the planet, known for their striking black-and-white coloring and waddling walk. These flightless birds live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, with only one species, the Galapagos penguin, found north of the equator. 18 different species of penguins range in size from just over a foot tall to nearly four feet tall.

One of the fascinating things about penguins is their unique adaptations to cold environments. Their feathers are densely packed and coated in oil, providing excellent insulation and waterproofing. They have a thick layer of fat that helps them retain heat in frigid waters. Penguins also have specialized blood vessels that help regulate their body temperature and prevent frostbite in their extremities.

What Penguins Are There?

Penguins are a fascinating species that have captured the hearts of many people worldwide. Despite their popularity, most people have yet to learn that there are six genera of penguins, each with unique characteristics and behaviors. Depending on how you classify them, there are 17 to 20 species of penguins.

There are:

• Great Penguins (King penguins and emperor penguins)
• Brush-tailed penguins (The Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo penguins)
• Little Penguins (the Little Penguin and Australian little penguin)
• Banded Penguins (Magellanic, Humboldt, Galapagos, and African penguins.)
• Megadyptes Penguins (the yellow-eyed and Waitaha penguins may be extinct)
• And Crested Penguins (including rockhopper, royal, and macaroni penguins.)

Birds That Look Like Penguins

Penguins are unique and fascinating creatures. Their black and white tuxedo-like appearance is easily recognizable, making them one of the most beloved animals in the world. However, some birds look similar to penguins but aren’t members of the same family. These birds have adapted to their environments just like penguins have to survive.

Birds That Look Like Penguins

Great Auk:

The Great Auk is a fascinating bird that has been extinct for over 150 years. This peculiar bird had a distinctive appearance, which led early explorers to mistake it for a penguin. The Great Auk was about the same size as a penguin and had similar black and white coloring. However, they were unrelated species and lived on opposite ends of the earth. This bird was 75 to 85 centimeters (30 to 33 inches) tall and weighed about 5 kilograms (11 pounds). It had an interestingly hooked and heavy beak, a white front, and a black head and back.

The Great Auk was native to the North Atlantic Ocean and was found in large colonies along rocky shorelines. They were flightless birds that relied heavily on swimming to catch fish, much like their look-alike penguins. Despite their inability to fly, they were excellent swimmers and could remain underwater for several minutes. Their unique physique included short wings, webbed feet, and an elongated beak that made them perfectly adapted for life in the water.


Auklets look like penguins, but they are not related to them. These seabirds are part of the family Alcidae and can be found in the Northern Hemisphere. They have a similar black-and-white coloration, stout bodies, and outstanding bills that make them easily recognizable.

The Least Auklet:

The Least Auklet is a small seabird that belongs to the Alcidae family. They are commonly found in the Arctic and Subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. These birds are often mistaken for penguins due to their similar appearance, but they are unrelated. The Least Auklet has short wings, black feathers on its back and head, and white feathers on its belly.

The scientific name for this bird is Aethiapusilla, which means “very small.” This species is indeed among the smallest members of the Alcidae family, reaching only about 15 centimeters in length. Despite their small size, these birds can dive deep into the water to catch fish and other prey. They can hold their breath for up to a minute while underwater.

Also, know about the birds that look like Peacocks.

The Crested Auklet:

The Crested Auklet is a seabird that closely resembles penguins in their appearance. These birds are known for their unique, crested feathers on top of their heads, which give them a distinctive look. Despite their resemblance to penguins, Crested Auklets belong to a different family of birds called Alcidae. The crested Auklet is superficially similar to a penguin. It can measure 18–27 cm (7.1–10.6 in) in length, 34–50 cm (13–20 in) in wingspan, and weigh 195–330 g (6.9–11.6 oz).

The Crested Auklet is found primarily in the North Pacific Ocean and breeds on remote islands such as Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Russia’s Commander Islands. During the breeding season, males display elaborate courtship rituals by raising their head crests and making calls to attract females. They also use their bright orange bills as part of this display. Crested Auklets are expert divers; they can dive up to 20 meters deep in search of small fish and plankton.

Parakeet Auklet:

The Parakeet Auklet is a small sea bird commonly found in the North Pacific. These birds are easily recognizable by their black and white feathers, which make them look like miniature penguins. Despite their similar appearance, the two species are not related.

Parakeet Auklets, like penguins, have a streamlined body shape that allows them to move quickly through the water. They use their wings to “fly” underwater and catch small fish and krill for food. Their beaks are also adapted for this diet; they have sharp hooks on end to grab onto slippery prey.

Although they may look cute and cuddly with their round bodies and big eyes, Parakeet Auklets can be fierce defenders of their territory. During the breeding season, males aggressively defend their nests from other males and predators using loud calls and physical displays.

Little Auk:

The Little Auk, also known as the Dovekie, is a small seabird resembling a penguin. These birds are found in the Arctic and breed in large colonies on rocky cliffs. They have a distinct black-and-white plumage that makes them easy to identify.

The Little Auk measures about 20-23 cm long with a wingspan of around 34-38 cm. They have short wings and stocky bodies, which makes them appear similar to penguins. However, unlike penguins, they can fly and spend most of their time at sea.

These birds feed on small fish such as capelin, herring, and sand eels. To catch their prey, they dive underneath the water’s surface and use their wings to swim through the water.

Murres/ Guillemots:

Murres and guillemots are two bird species that belong to the family Alcidae. These birds are known for their unique physical characteristics, which include a streamlined body shape, webbed feet, and waterproof feathers. Murres and guillemots can be found in coastal regions throughout the Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic.

Common Murres:

Common Murres are a type of seabird found in large colonies along Alaska, Canada, and California coasts. They are known for their distinctive black and white plumage and long, slender bills. These birds spend most of their lives at sea, coming to shore only to breed and raise their young. The common Murre is 38–46 cm (15–18 in) in length with a 61–73 cm (24–29 in) wingspan and weight that varies between around 774-1250 g (1 lb. 11.5 oz. – 2 lbs. 12 oz.).

During the breeding season, they gather in huge colonies on rocky cliffs or islands. The females lay a single egg each year, which both parents incubate for about a month. Once the chicks hatch, they are fed fish by both parents until they fledge and head out to sea.

Common Murres are important in the marine ecosystem as top predators that help regulate fish populations. However, these birds face many threats, including oil spills, climate change impacts on ocean currents, and the productivity of fisheries.

Thick-Billed Murre:

Thick-Billed Murre is a bird that looks incredibly similar to penguins. These birds live in the cold waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions and have evolved to share many physical characteristics with their southern cousins. They have stocky bodies, black-and-white plumage, short wings, and webbed feet that allow them to dive deep into the water for fish.

Despite their similarities to penguins, Thick-Billed Murres are not related. Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere, while murres reside solely in the Northern Hemisphere. However, Thick-Billed Murres aren’t the only birds that look like penguins; there are several other species worldwide, such as Little Penguins in Australia and New Zealand or Humboldt Penguins from South America.


Puffins are a unique and charming bird species that look like penguins. These fascinating creatures belong to the family Alcidae and inhabit the northern Hemisphere’s coastal regions. Puffins have a distinctive appearance with black-and-white plumage, colorful bills, and webbed feet. They are known for their remarkable diving abilities, capable of reaching depths of up to 200 feet in search of food.

Birds That Look Like Penguins

Although puffins are often compared to penguins due to their similar physical characteristics, they are not closely related. Unlike penguins, who live exclusively in Antarctica and surrounding islands, puffins can be found in various locations such as Iceland, Norway, Canada, Greenland, and Russia. They also differ from penguins in size; while most penguin species range from 1-4 feet tall, puffins usually measure 10-12 inches.

Atlantic Puffin:

The Atlantic Puffin is a delightful seabird that resembles a penguin. These colorful birds are known for their distinctive beaks, which are brightly colored in shades of orange and yellow during the breeding season. They also have black and white feathers, making them resemble miniature penguins.

Atlantic Puffins are found in the North Atlantic Ocean, brewing on rocky cliffs and islands. They spend most of their lives at sea, diving up to 200 feet below the surface to catch fish. These birds are well adapted to life on the water, with webbed feet that help them swim and dive.

Despite their physical similarities to penguins, Atlantic Puffins belong to a different family of birds altogether. They are part of the Alcidae family, which includes other species such as murres and guillemots.

Horned Puffin:

Horned Puffins are small seabirds that belong to the Auk family. These birds are often mistaken for penguins due to their distinctive black and white coloration, stout bodies, and waddling walk on land. However, unlike penguins, Horned Puffins can fly. The larger horned puffin is 38 cm (15 in) long, with a 58 cm (23 in) wingspan and a weight of 620 g (1.37lb).

Horned puffins have a unique appearance that sets them apart from other seabirds. They have a bright orange bill with a curved horn-like projection above the eyes. They also have white faces with black patches around their eyes and necks. Their wings are black and white, giving them a distinct look in flight.

These birds breed in colonies in coastal areas of Alaska, Russia, and Canada during the summer months. During this time of year, they can be seen diving into the water to catch fish and marine invertebrates to feed themselves and their young ones.

Tufted Puffin:

Tufted Puffins are among the most distinctive and fascinating birds that look like penguins. These cute little creatures are found in the North Pacific, particularly along the coasts of Alaska and Canada. They have black and white plumage, with striking orange bills and tufts of yellow feathers above their eyes.

Tufted Puffins are excellent flyers, but they also spend much time swimming in the ocean, diving down to catch fish with their sharp beaks. These birds can hold their breath for up to a minute underwater! During the breeding season, Tufted Puffins gather in large colonies on rocky cliffs or islands. They build burrows where they lay one egg each year.

Tufted Puffins are beloved by birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike for their unique appearance and charming behavior. The tufted puffin is 38 cm (15 in) long, with a 63.5 cm (25.0 in) wingspan and a weight of 780 g (1.72 lb).


Razorbill is a species of seabird that belongs to the family of Alcidae. These birds are known for their striking resemblance to penguins, making them popular among bird enthusiasts. Although they may look like penguins initially, Razorbill has unique characteristics that set them apart from their southern cousins.

Razorbills have black and white feathers that give them a distinct tuxedo-like appearance. They also have an elongated bill with a thin white stripe that runs down its length. Razorbills can fly and dive deep into the water for food, unlike penguins. They are excellent swimmers and use their wings to propel themselves through the water.

Rhinoceros Auklet:

The Rhinoceros Auklet is one of the many birds that look like penguins. These birds are often mistaken for penguins because of their similar appearance and behavior. They are a sight to behold with unique features, including a distinctive horn on their beak.

The Rhinoceros Auklet can be found in coastal areas along the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to California. They are known for their excellent diving skills and can reach depths of up to 150 feet while searching for food such as fish, krill, and squid. These birds have a distinct call that sounds like a low-pitched growl or grunt.

Despite its name, the Rhinoceros Auklet is unrelated to rhinoceroses. Instead, they belong to the same family as puffins and other auks.

Final Thoughts:

It is no wonder why penguins are so beloved around the world. Their unique features, charming personalities, and unusual behavior make them special creatures. However, birds that look like penguins are also an interesting group of species with their unique characteristics and behaviors.

These other species should not be overlooked or disregarded – they deserve appreciation for their differences and contributions to the natural world. Penguins may get much attention, but these related birds are equally worthy of respect and admiration.


What Bird of Prey Looks Like a Penguin?

The South Georgia pipit is small, measuring only about 15 centimeters long. Its body is covered in thick brown feathers, white underparts, and distinctive black markings on its face. The bird’s coloring allows it to blend into the rocky terrain where it lives and hunts for food.

What Parrot Looks Like a Penguin?

The Kakapo is native to New Zealand and is an endangered species with only around 200 individuals remaining. Its face has distinctive markings resembling a penguin, with black patches around its eyes and a yellow-green beak. Its body feathers are predominantly green with speckles of brown and yellow, making for an overall unique appearance.