yellow penguin
Jade Small
Jade Small
May 17, 2024 ·  3 min read

Wildlife Photographer Captures ‘Never Before Seen’ Yellow Penguin

We’ve all come to know and love black and white penguins. And, everyone knows how to identify one of these adorable water birds by their color. But recently, there have been reports of a new fella on the block. And, what’s more, he’s rocking a sunshiny yellow tux instead of the usual penguin “drab.”

Finding a rare Yellow Penguin

On a trip to an island in South Georgia, a wildlife photographer named Yves Adams found something incredibly unique. He spotted a stunning, rare, yellow king penguin. He recently released the photographs of this magnificent creature, and the internet went wild.[1]

According to recent reports, the yellow penguin is a one-of-a-kind find. Literally the first of its kind ever found. It wasn’t hard for Yves to spot him amongst 120 000 black and white king penguins! They were on the penguin’s home island in South Georgia.

yellow penguin
Image credit: Yves Adams | Instagram

“I’d never seen or heard of a yellow penguin before. There were 120,000 birds on that beach, and this was the only yellow one there.”

Yves Adams

The photographer struck gold when he chose to land on that beach. Close to the colony, which gave them a perfect and unobstructed view of the yellow penguin.

“We were so lucky the bird landed right where we were. Our view wasn’t blocked by a sea of massive animals. Normally it’s almost impossible to move on this beach because of them all.

It was heaven that he landed by us. If it had been 50 meters away we wouldn’t have been able to get this show of a lifetime.”

Yves Adams

Additionally, the yellow penguin’s color is caused by a rare condition called leucism which causes a loss of pigmentation. 

What is the difference between Albino and Leucistic animals?

You might be wondering what the difference is between albino and leucistic conditions? 

Firstly, albinism is a genetic condition that lacks melanin, which affects the skin, hair, eyes, and in the aviary cases, the feathers. Vertebrates who have albinism are normally white but can also be pale yellow in color and have very pale eyes, which can be pink or red, and this is because of the red blood cells that show through the pale skin.

Image credit: Yves Adams | Instagram

Secondly, leucism is the loss of pigmentation, which causes the animal to have white or patchy colored hair, feathers, skin, etc. Interestingly the condition does not affect the eyes like albinism. Most people confuse the two conditions, which is not uncommon due to the similarities of the conditions. 

This is a leucistic penguin. Its cells don’t create melanin anymore so its black feathers become this yellow and creamy color.”

Yves Adams

Consequently, scientists have discovered that a difference in molecular chemistry causes the yellow pigment seen in the penguin’s feathers. It is chemically different from all molecules known to give the common black and white pigment to the feathers.

“Penguins use the yellow pigment to attract mates and we strongly suspect that the yellow molecule is synthesized internally. [It’s] distinct from any of the five known classes of avian plumage pigmentation and represents a new sixth class of feather pigment. As far as we are aware, the molecule is unlike any of the yellow pigments found in a penguin’s diet.”

Researcher Daniel Thomas Smithsonian Insider.

Will The Unique Yellow Penguin Find a Mate?

Image credit: Yves Adams | Instagram

Most penguins are monogamous and find one mate for life. However, it is still unclear whether this yellow penguin, with its unique and rare color, is actually attractive or off-putting to female penguins; and whether or not his color will hinder or aid his chances at finding a mate.[2]

Yves Adams captured thousands of photographs during the expedition. It continued for more than 8 weeks after his memorable and rare sighting of the yellow penguin. He has edited the images and is now sharing them with the world!

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  1. Unique yellow penguin captured on camera for first time in the incredible image.Mirror. Kelly-Ann Mills. February 2021.
  2. What’s the Difference Between Albino and Leucistic?Tree Hugger. Jaymi Heimbuch. August 16, 2019.