How Long Do Penguins Live?

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Penguins are a well-known and beloved type of bird found all around the world. Although they may seem like simple creatures, there are many penguin facts that people don’t know. For example, how long do penguins live?

The average life expectancy for penguins varies between species and can range from 6.5 years up to 30 years in the wild. In captivity, penguins have been known to live for 40 years or more.

Keep reading to find more details on the life expectancy for each penguin species and the oldest known penguin.

How Long Do Penguins Live?

The life expectancy of penguins can vary greatly depending upon the species and the threats to their survival such as weather or predators that they face. It ranges from as low as 6.5 years for Little Penguins up to 30 years for Emperor Penguins. Typically, a penguin’s lifespan will be between 15-20 years in the wild.

Magellanic Penguins have the longest life expectancy of all the penguin species. With a life expectancy of 30 years, they are one of the few species that exceed the lifespan predicted based on their mass, surpassing the prediction by 26%1 (source: J.A. Cerchiara University of Washington).

The Little Penguin, which is the smallest species of penguin, has the shortest lifespan at just 6.5 years, although experts have noted some individuals in Southeastern Australia living far longer than their average life expectancy, even as long as 20 years2 (source: P. Dan, et al., Marine Ornithology).

The below table shows the life expectancy of each penguin species in the wild.

Penguin SpeciesLife ExpectancyData Source
Magellanic Penguin30 yearsJournal of Field Ornithology
King Penguin26 yearsBritannica
Emperor Penguin20-25 yearsSeaworld
Royal Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Humboldt Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Yellow-eyed Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Snares Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Macaroni Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Galapagos Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Erect-crested Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
African Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Chinstrap Penguin15-20 yearsSeaworld
Gentoo Penguin15-20 yearsNational Geographic
Rockhopper Penguin (Northern & Southern)10-20 yearsSeaworld
Fiordland Penguin10-20 yearsSeaworld
Adelie Penguin16-19 yearsNew Zealand Journal of Ecology
Little Penguin6.5 yearsMarine Ornithology

How Long Do Penguins Live In Captivity?

Penguins can live much longer in captivity because they are fed a balanced diet and don’t encounter predators or other treats that they might face in the wild.

Most penguin species have a lifespan of around 30 years in captivity, although Magellanic Penguins, which have the longest lifespan in the wild, live to around 35 years old in captivity3 (source: National Geographic).

However, there are many documented cases of penguins living beyond 40 years in captivity.

For example, the oldest known penguin in captivity is a Gentoo Penguin called Olde which in 2020 had reached the age of 41 at Odense Zoo in Denmark4 (source: Guinness World Records). This is more than double its expected lifespan in the wild.

Dr. Jackie Symmons

Dr. Jackie Symmons is a professional ecologist with a Ph.D. in Ecology and Wildlife Management from Bangor University and over 25 years of experience delivering conservation projects.