Chinstrap Penguin

Though armed with the "stonebreaker" nickname and a quarrelsome reputation, these gentoo relatives are fading from the Antarctic – probably due to climate change

Antarctic Peninsula

Name: Chinstrap Penguin, Ringed Penguin, Bearded Penguins, Stonecracker Penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica)

Height: Up to 70 cm.

Weight: Up to 6kg.

Location: Antarctica and Sub-Antarctic Islands.

Conservation status: Least Concern.

Diet: Fish, krill, shrimp, squid.

Appearance: Black back, flippers, and cap on head. Black bill and black “strap” running under chin.

How do Chinstrap Penguins feed?

Chinstrap Penguins can swim as far as 80 km offshore every day to forage. Like other penguins, their tightly-packed feathers make them waterproof, they have a thick wall of blubber, and blood vessels in their extremities restrict to redirect heat to essential organs. 

Chinstraps can dive as deep as 70 metres, but usually their dives are fairly shallow compared to some other species of Penguin. The dives usually last less than a minute.

Are Chinstrap Penguins social?

Chinstrap Penguins are very social. During breeding season they’ll gather in enormous colonies on shore. They have many noted forms of communication including flipper and head waving, bowing, preening, and gesturing. 

If arguments arise over nesting space showdowns may include pointing, staring, and even charging if the situation gets really heated.

How fast do Chinstrap Penguins swim?

Chinstrap Penguins can swim at 30km per hour. On land Chinstraps are tobogganers, laying on their bellies and pushing themselves along the ice.

What are Chinstrap Penguin mating rituals like?

Chinstrap Penguins are generally monogamous, returning to the same mate every year. They return to land each year to form colonies, sometimes with over 100,000 pairs of adults. 

In order to first create a pair, a male will beat on his chest with his flippers, raising his head to screech. This action is quite often echoed by other males, and is thought to perhaps act as a way to synchronize the breeding season across a colony. 

The males arrive at the colony about 5 days before the females. They’ll attempt to find the shallow bowl in the rock that the couple used the year before as a nest and will prepare it by adding rocks and even bones to rebuild it. 

The female will lay 2 eggs around the beginning of December, and both parents will take turns incubating them in 6-day shifts. The eggs hatch after about 37 days. They’ll stay with their parents in the nest for up to a month, and then join other chicks in a group known as a crèche.

The crèche helps them keep warm as well as make it harder for predators to pick any one individual out. Once the chicks are about 2 months old they will moult, replacing their fluffy down with their waterproof coating of feathers, at which point they’re ready to make their first foray out to the sea to learn to hunt for themselves. 

Once the breeding season is over the adults will stay onshore an extra 2 weeks to moult, replacing worn feathers with new ones in order to remain waterproof.

How long do Chinstrap Penguins live?

Chinstrap Penguins live for about 20 years.

How many Chinstrap Penguins are there today?

There are an estimated 13,000,000 to 15,000,000 Chinstrap Penguins in the world today.

Do Chinstrap Penguins have any natural predators?

Chinstrap Penguins have to keep a wary eye open for Leopard Seals, Sea Lions, Orcas, and Sharks. Eggs and chicks are vulnerable to other seabirds such as the Skua.

7 Charming Chinstrap Penguin Facts

  • Chinstrap Penguins are decreasing in numbers in the Antarctic Peninsula Region. Scientists are looking towards climate change for the answers.
  • Chinstrap Penguins are referred to as “Stonebreaker Penguins” not because of their collecting of stones for nests, but because their screech is so piercing that it could break stones.
  • Outside of the breeding season Chinstrap Penguins will often congregate on icebergs.
  • Chinstrap Penguins are closely related to Gentoo Penguins.
  • Chinstrap Penguins are one of the most aggressive species of Penguins.
  • Chinstrap Penguins can lose half their weight during the breeding season since they take turns staying with the eggs and chicks for days at a time while the other parent goes off to hunt.
  • Pygoscelis means “rump-legged.”    

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