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A Cool Collection Of Free Vintage Penguin Illustrations

Penguins have a special place in my heart, they bring back fun memories of my children when they were younger. That is why I’ve curated a collection of wonderful scientific penguin illustrations.

When my middle son was about 9 years old he was obsessed with penguins. He knew everything there was to know about penguins.

Elliot’s job at Christmas was to set the family quiz, well his quiz ended up being 20 questions long and every one of the questions was about penguins. So I ended up learning quite a lot about these cute creatures.

I’m not sure where his obsession began, but I blame the 2006 film Happy Feet. Elliot still sets the Christmas family quiz but luckily now the questions are much broader.

If you are looking for another heartwarming film about Penguins I highly recommend “Oddball” it’s based on a true story.

vintage penguin illustrations

Fun Facts About Penguins

Before I show the vintage penguin illustration I’ll share some of the fun facts I learned about Penguins from my son’s quizzes.

  • Penguins are flightless, they have flippers for swimming rather than wings for flying.
  • You will never find penguins and polar bears in the same place. Penguins live south of the Equator and Polar bears only in the far north.
  • There are 17 species of Penguins the largest being Emperor penguins and the smallest Little Blue (Fairy) Penguins.
  • Penguin’s black and white plumage serves as camouflage while swimming. The black plumage on their back is hard to see from above, while the white plumage on their front looks like the sun reflecting off the surface of the water when seen from below.
  • The fastest species of penguin is the gentoo penguin, which can swim at up to 22mph.
  • All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to one thousand birds.
  • It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season. Often they also return to the same nesting site year after year.
  • Both the males and females care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

The Free Vintage Penguin Illustrations

To download the vintage penguin illustration just click the title above the penguin picture. The image should automatically download to your computer and will be of a higher resolution.

1. Emperor Penguin Illustration

The Emperor penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all the penguins. They are only found in Antarctica.

The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, emperor penguins trek 50–120 km over the ice to breeding colonies which can contain up to several thousand penguins.

The female lays a single egg, which is incubated for just over two months by the male while the female returns to the sea to feed; parents subsequently take turns foraging at sea and caring for their chick in the colony.

By the way, the main character Mumble in the film Happy Feet was an Emperor penguin.

Emperor Penguins Illustration

2. King Penguin illustrations

A penguin illustration from the 1834 book “The animal kingdom, arranged according to its organization, serving as a foundation for the natural history of animals – and an introduction to comparative anatomy (Vol. 1)

The king penguin is the second largest penguin after the emperor penguin but is very similar. However, the cheek patch of the adult king penguin is a solid bright orange whereas that of the emperor penguin is yellow and white, and the upper chest tends to be more orange and less yellowish in the king species.

Their chicks look totally different though as they are brown and not grey. The total population is estimated to be 2.23 million pairs.

King penguin illustration

3. Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Their common name refers to the fact that, unlike many other penguins that get around obstacles by sliding on their bellies or by awkward climbing using their flipper-like wings as aid, rockhoppers will try to jump over boulders and across cracks.

Southern Rockhopper penguin illustrations

4. Macaroni Penguin Illustrations

This penguin isn’t named after the pasta as my son once thought.

It is believed English sailors apparently named the species for its distinctive yellow crest;  Maccaronism was a term for a particular style in 18th-century England marked by flamboyant or excessive ornamentation.

A person who adopted this fashion was labeled a “maccaroni” or “macaroni”, as in the song “Yankee Doodle”

Marconi penguins illustraitons

5. Little Penguin Illustration

Little penguins are also known as fairy penguins, they are the smallest species of penguins. They are found on the southern coasts of Australia and New Zealand.

Little penguins on Middle Island off Warrnambool, Victoria were preyed upon heavily by foxes who could reach the Island at low tide. Maremma sheepdogs were successfully trained to protect the penguins from the foxes. The first trained dog was called Oddball and his story inspired the 2015 film of the same name.

The drawing is from the book A History of the Birds of New Zealand 1873.

Little penguins

6. Yellow-eyed Penguin

This species of penguin is endemic to New Zealand. The yellow-eyed penguin is most easily identified by the band of pale yellow feathers surrounding its eyes and encircling the back of its head.

This vintage penguin painting is from the book ” The zoology of the voyage of the H.M.S. Erebus & Terror” 1844.

7. Adélie penguin

The tail of the Adelie penguin is a little longer than other penguins’ tails. The appearance looks somewhat like a tuxedo. They are a little smaller than most other penguin species.

Adélie penguins usually swim at around 5 miles per hour. They are able to leap some 3 meters out of the water to land on rocks or ice.

Another vintage penguin painting from the book ” The zoology of the voyage of the H.M.S. Erebus & Terror” 1844.

Vintage Adelie Penguin painting

8. Chinstrap Penguin Illustration

The Chinstrap penguin gets its name from the narrow black band under its head, which makes it appear as if it were wearing a black helmet. It also makes it easy to identify.

Another vintage penguin painting from the book ” The zoology of the voyage of the H.M.S. Erebus & Terror” 1844.

Chinstrap penguin painting

9. Gentoo Penguin

The gentoo penguin is easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head and its bright orange-red bill. It has pale whitish-pink webbed feet and the most prominent tail of all penguin species

10. African Penguin Illustrations

The African penguin is the only penguin species that breeds on the African continent. It has distinctive pink patches of skin above the eyes and a black facial mask.

African penguins are a popular penguin species for zoos as they do not require particularly low temperatures. They adapt fairly well to life in the zoo and are easier to breed compared to other species of penguins. 

African paintings

11. Magellanic penguin

A pair of Magellanic penguins. These South American penguins were named after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who spotted the birds in 1520.

For drawings and illustrations of another flightless bird, check out those of the famously extinct dodo bird. Another popular zoo animal is the giraffe, check out their drawings.

If you liked these vintage penguin illustrations, then you will probably love some of these other vintage natural history paintings on Pictureboxblue. These include other animals that you associate with winter and colder climes, such as reindeer.


Saturday 19th of November 2022

I have a special love for these adorable birds, they are so comical in appearance but display attributes we would do well to emulate - tenacity, honour, commitment, compassion, love and loyalty. They show such unbelievable strength and energy too.. Thank you for the pictures and notes.


Sunday 20th of November 2022

Yes, they are amazing birds. My son was obsessed as a child and new everything there was about to know about penguins. I'd love to see them in the wild someday.


Monday 18th of November 2019

These are really lovely, Claire. Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!


Monday 18th of November 2019

Thank you.