8 Birds That Look Like Penguins

Penguins are a beloved species across the world, known for their cute walking style and unique coat. Despite their popularity, it can be difficult to tell them apart from other similar-looking birds. In this article, we will talk about 8 birds that many people confuse with penguins. Let’s dive in…

1. Indian Runner Ducks

Indian Runner Ducks are a type of domesticated duck bred and kept across south and southeast Asia. They are used extensively in rice paddies to help farmers curb the growth of unwanted pests. 

Indian runner ducks look similar to penguins due to the fact that they also stand in an upright posture like penguins. This posture might have been selectively bred into them due to the fact that it helps them see better. However, the upright posture of penguins comes from their need to balance on slippery ice and sharp rocks.

2. Common Loon

The Common loon, also known as the Great Northern loon, is a bird species that is native to North America and is known for its distinctive appearance and call. While the common loon may not have the same upright posture as Indian runner ducks and penguins, it does share some similarities in its overall appearance with these birds.

For example, the common loon has a black head with a white neck ring, which gives it a similar black-and-white color pattern to penguins. Additionally, the common loon’s body is streamlined to make it more adaptable to its aquatic habitat. This makes it very similar to a penguin in appearance and behavior.

3. Common Murre

Common murres are sea birds that are well adapted to life in the ocean, meaning they fill an ecological niche very similar to the one penguins fill in the Antarctic. Penguins and Common murres are both flightless birds that are specialized for life in the water. Both species have strong, webbed feet and streamlined bodies that help them swim and dive efficiently.

Another similarity between common murres and penguins is that they both have a similar color pattern with black and white plumage. However, common murres have a more pointed bill, while penguins have a more rounded bill.

4. Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffins are probably the most aesthetically similar animal to the Emperor Penguins we’re used to seeing. They are sea birds that make colonies along the shorelines of rocky islands near the Arctic circle. They mate for life, are excellent swimmers owing to their waterproof fur and streamlined bodies, and even sport the same sort of plumage as the common penguins. 

See also  18 Different Types of Penguins 

Were it not for the Puffin’s ability to fly and their rather extraordinarily colored beak, they would look very much like an extant species of penguins that just happened to get stuck on the wrong side of the globe.

5. Tufted Puffin

Tufted Puffins are a species of Puffins found along the western coast of the North American continent. Their winter range goes all the way down to Baja, California, and their summers are spent closer to the Arctic circle along the coast of Russia and Alaska. There are many jagged rocks in-between that the birds colonize. 

Tufted Puffins have a distinct tuft of brightly colored hair on their head which they use for their elaborate courtship rituals. This tuft, combined with their black and white tuxedo-like plumage, makes them very similar to some species of crested penguins which also sport brightly colored feathers over their eyes.

6. Razorbill

Razorbills are large birds in the Auk family that inhabit rocky cliffs and islands along the northern Atlantic coastline all the way from Greenland to northern Europe. They are extremely social and form very large colonies. Razorbills have the ability to fly, although they take off rather clumsily by paddling their feet over the water until they are airborne.

With plumage similar to penguins and a similar general shape, you might be fooled into thinking you’re looking at a very small penguin when seeing them from a distance. This, combined with the fact that they are amazing swimmers and have an upright posture, makes them very hard to distinguish from penguins.

7. Guillemot

Much like Razorbills, Guillemots also have an upright posture when on land as it helps them balance on the rocky terrain they usually inhabit. This gives them a very penguin-like silhouette, which is very strange because of how far apart the two fall in the animal kingdom. 

Their plumage is also the same black-on-white pattern that most penguins sport and their feet are webbed. When perched on their cliffs, they seem exactly like penguins apart from their rather slim beak.

See also  Baby Penguin: 13 Facts and Pictures 

8. Great Auk

The only extinct animal on this list, the Great Auk was a species of flightless bird endemic to the Atlantic ocean that became extinct by the mid-19th century due to human activity. It is also possibly the only animal on this list that could pass for a penguin, even to some biologists.

This bird is the only species in the genus Pinguinus to have lived into the modern age. Although completely unrelated to the penguins, they had similar stout bodies, strong flippers, and the same upright posture that we observe in penguins. In fact, these were so similar to penguins that when penguins were later discovered, they were named after these animals.


Are there penguins on the north pole?

A common misconception among people is that penguins live on the north pole. This could most likely be chalked down to cartoons that depict igloos, polar bears, and penguins in the same terrains when penguins are found nowhere even close to the north pole.

How do I tell if the bird I saw is a penguin?

Well, if you’ve spotted the bird in the wild, a good litmus test is a hemisphere you’re in. If you are in the northern hemisphere, you probably haven’t spotted a penguin. But hey, you never know!

Do penguins like the cold? 

Although pop culture will have you believe that all penguins love the cold, there are actually a few species of penguins that live in warmer climates, such as the Galapagos Penguins or the more well-known African penguins found in South Africa.

Do penguins make good pets?

Penguins are social creatures and live in very large colonies. Although you’d think this would make them adapt well to our environment as humans are very social creatures, that’s not always the case. Without their kin around for comfort, bonding, and playing, penguins can get rather depressed. This is why even zoos find it hard to take care of captive penguins.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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