What Do Penguins Sound Like: A Complete Guide

What do penguins sound like? Well, prepare to be surprised and delighted by the unexpected symphony of chirps, honks, and even donkey-like braying! 

In this article, we dive into the captivating world of penguin vocalizations, exploring their unique sounds and the fascinating stories behind them. 

Get ready for an ear-opening adventure!

What Do Penguins Sound Like

Penguins, those charming and comical creatures that inhabit the frigid landscapes of the Southern Hemisphere, are not just known for their distinctive waddling gait and tuxedo-like appearance. 

They also have a repertoire of sounds that they use to communicate with each other in their vast colonies. 

From squawks and honks to growls and greetings, penguins have a diverse range of vocalizations that serve different purposes in their daily lives.

What Sounds Does a Penguin Make

Hawk Sounds

When a penguin feels threatened or senses danger nearby, it emits a hawk-like sound as a warning signal to its fellow penguins

This call resembles a high-pitched screech, alerting others to be on guard and ready to take defensive measures.

Squawk Sounds

Squawking is one of the most common sounds you’ll hear when penguins gather in groups. 

It’s a loud and raucous call that serves as a form of communication among individuals. 

Penguins use squawking to establish their presence, express excitement or displeasure, and coordinate their movements within the colony.

Honk Sounds

Similar to the squawk, the honk sound is another vocalization that penguins employ during social interactions. 

Honking is often heard during courtship rituals or when penguins are trying to get the attention of their mates. 

It’s a distinct, resonant call that carries across the icy landscapes, creating a symphony of honks in the air.

Growl Sounds

When penguins engage in territorial disputes or confrontations, they unleash a deep, growling sound. 

This growl serves as a warning to potential rivals, conveying their intent to protect their territory and assert their dominance. 

It’s a low-frequency rumble that can be quite intimidating, considering the penguin’s diminutive size.

Greeting Sound

Penguins have a specific vocalization reserved for greeting each other. 

This sound is more melodic and gentle compared to their squawks and honks. 

It’s a way for penguins to acknowledge the presence of their companions and maintain social bonds within the colony.

Annoying Sound

In some instances, penguins can emit an irritating and repetitive sound that can be considered annoying. 

This sound is often heard when a penguin wants to express its dissatisfaction or displeasure with a particular situation. 

It serves as a form of protest or complaint among the individuals in the colony.

Bill To Axilla Display Sounds

During courtship displays, penguins engage in a unique behavior known as the “bill to axilla” display. 

This display involves stretching their necks and pointing their bills towards their armpits while emitting a distinct vocalization. 

The sound accompanying this display is a mixture of trumpeting calls and soft cooing, signaling their interest in potential mates.

Gekkering and Geeking Sound

Penguins also produce gekkering and geeking sounds, which are usually associated with aggression or defense. 

These vocalizations are characterized by rapid, high-pitched calls that resemble a series of chirps or laughs. 

Gekkering and geeking sounds often occur when penguins engage in territorial disputes or face off against rivals.

Nesting Sound

When penguins are nesting or tending to their eggs, they emit a gentle and soothing sound that helps create a calm environment within the colony. 

This nesting sound is a soft cooing noise that reassures the eggs or chicks, providing them with a sense of security and warmth.

Locomotive Hesitant Sounds

As penguins navigate their way across treacherous terrains, such as rocky shores or icy slopes, they emit a series of hesitant sounds. 

These sounds resemble a hesitant murmuring or grumbling, indicating their cautious approach and alerting others to potential hazards along the way.

Related Article: What Does A Pigeon Sound Like

Types of Penguin Calls

Display Call

Display calls are vocalizations used by penguins during courtship rituals and mating displays. 

These calls vary depending on the species, with some penguins producing melodic, trumpet-like calls, while others emit a series of honks or squawks. 

Display calls are essential in attracting potential mates and establishing breeding pairs within the colony.

Contact Calls

Penguins use contact calls to communicate and maintain social cohesion within the colony. 

These calls serve as a way to locate and identify individual penguins among the crowded colony. 

Contact calls are often unique to each penguin, allowing them to recognize their mates, chicks, or companions even in a sea of similar-looking individuals.

Threat Calls

When faced with threats or predators, penguins unleash a series of loud and urgent calls to alert the rest of the colony. 

These threat calls act as a warning signal, prompting other penguins to take evasive action and seek safety. 

Threat calls are crucial for the survival of the colony, as they help mobilize a collective defense against potential dangers.


Baby Penguins: A Chorus of Cuteness

When it comes to sound, baby penguins have their own special charm. 

Their vocalizations are often described as soft and high-pitched, resembling a series of adorable chirps and peeps. 

These tiny, fluffy creatures use these sounds to communicate with their parents and siblings, expressing their needs, emotions, and simply staying connected within their penguin colonies.

Jackass Penguins: The Noisy Neighbors

Jackass penguins, also known as African penguins, are renowned for their noisy nature. 

These social birds have a wide range of vocalizations, which earned them the name “Jackass” due to the donkey-like braying sound they produce. 

They can be quite vocal, especially during breeding season or when they are defending their territory. 

The calls of Jackass penguins can vary from a loud bray to a raucous squawk, creating a lively atmosphere around their colonies.

Macaroni Penguins: A Unique Melody

Macaroni penguins, with their vibrant yellow crests, possess an extraordinary vocal repertoire. 

Their calls are distinct and melodic, often compared to a chorus of trumpets or horns. 

These vocalizations play a crucial role in pair bonding, courtship rituals, and nest defense. 

Macaroni penguins create a captivating symphony of honks, squawks, and brays, making them quite the performers in the world of penguin vocalizations.

Emperor Penguins: The Sound of the Antarctic

Emperor penguins, the largest of all penguin species, have a vocalization that matches their majestic presence. 

Their calls are deep, resonant, and can travel long distances under the icy Antarctic waters. 

The vocalizations of Emperor penguins serve various purposes, such as locating mates, communicating during the breeding season, and organizing their massive colonies. 

These low-frequency calls resemble haunting trumpets or deep drum beats echoing through the frozen landscape.

Related Article: What Birds Like Shiny Things

Fairy Penguins: The Gentle Chatter

Fairy penguins, also known as Little penguins, may be small in size, but their vocalizations are far from inconspicuous. 

These charming birds produce a series of high-pitched, rapid chatter, often likened to a chorus of excited twittering. 

Fairy penguins use these vocalizations to maintain contact with their mates and chicks, coordinate movements within their colonies, and express their emotions. 

Their soft, chattering calls create an enchanting atmosphere along the shores where they reside.

Rockhopper Penguins: A Squeaky Serenade

Rockhopper penguins, with their distinctive crest of spiky feathers, have vocalizations that can be described as squeaky and high-pitched. 

Their calls are often compared to a series of rapid, piercing chirps. 

These sounds play a vital role in communication, especially during courtship rituals and territorial disputes. 

Rockhopper penguins are known for their spirited nature, and their energetic vocalizations perfectly match their lively demeanor.

The Distressing Sound of a Dying Penguin

While the world of penguin vocalizations is usually filled with cheerful sounds, there is a sorrowful note that can occasionally be heard—the distressing sound of a dying penguin. 

When a penguin is severely injured, sick, or in distress, it may emit distress calls that are haunting and heart-wrenching. 

These distress calls can vary depending on the species, but they generally consist of mournful wails or long, drawn-out cries, indicating the penguin’s suffering.

FAQs About What Do Penguins Sound Like

What is the sound of a penguin called?

The vocalizations of penguins are commonly referred to as “calls.” 

These calls vary between species and can range from soft chirps to loud honks or trumpeting sounds.

Do penguins chirp or quack?

Penguins are more known for chirping rather than quacking. 

Their vocalizations resemble high-pitched chirps, similar to the sounds made by birds, which they use for communication and social interaction.

Do penguins have sounds?

Yes, penguins do have sounds. 

While they are not as diverse or complex as the songs of some other bird species, penguins use a variety of vocalizations to communicate with their mates, offspring, and colony members.

What do penguin sounds mean?

Penguin sounds serve various purposes and convey different meanings. 

They can be used for mate recognition, locating individuals in a crowded colony, expressing hunger or distress, or establishing dominance within the group. 

Each sound carries a specific message in the penguin world.

Do penguins sound like donkeys?

Certain penguin species, particularly the Jackass Penguins (African Penguins), are often referred to as sounding like donkeys due to their distinctive braying calls. 

However, it’s important to note that not all penguins sound like donkeys. 

The vocalizations of penguins vary greatly between species, each having their own unique sound.

Final Thoughts About What Do Penguins Sound Like

In conclusion, the world of penguin sounds is a captivating and diverse one. 

From the gentle chirps of baby penguins to the resonant calls of Emperors, each species has its own distinct voice. 

Whether it’s the trumpeting of Jackass Penguins or the high-pitched conversations of Fairy Penguins, these vocalizations add depth and character to the lives of these incredible birds. 

So, the next time you find yourself near a penguin colony, take a moment to listen and appreciate the symphony of sounds that these remarkable creatures create.

It’s a reminder of the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.