Gentoo Penguin

The exact origin of their name now lost to time, these highly fastidious divers comprise the only penguin population currently increasing both in size and domain

Antarctic Peninsula

Name: Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

Height: 50 to 90 cm.

Weight: 4.5-8.5 kg.

Location: Antarctica.

Conservation status: Near Threatened.

Diet: Crustaceans (krill), fish, squid.

Appearance: Black back and head, white belly, a white stripe going from eye to eye across the top of the head.

How do Gentoo Penguins feed?

Gentoo Penguins have been known to make up to as many as 450 dives in one day to forage for food. They can dive as deep as 200 metres and stay underwater up to 7 minutes. Although they prefer to stay close to shore Gentoos have been spotted as far as 26 km out to sea.

Are Gentoo Penguins social?

Gentoo Penguins tend to stay with their colonies even beyond the mating season, although colonies in the more southern regions may disperse a bit more.

How fast can Gentoo Penguins swim?

Gentoo Penguins are the fastest swimming Penguins, reaching speeds of up to 36 km per hour.

What are Gentoo Penguin mating rituals like?

Gentoo Penguins choose shallow coastal areas for their breeding grounds, building their nests amongst tufts of grass or on rocky ground. Their colonies are spread across many of the sub-Antarctic islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Gentoos use stones to form a circle for their nests, and fights over those stones can become quite nasty. Stones are even a gift that males sometimes give females as a gift to woo her. There is a big variety in egg-laying times depending on where a particular Gentoo is found. In warmer areas this can occur as early as June, but in colder areas the laying period is delayed until December. Gentoos are monogamous through 1 and sometimes up to 3 breeding seasons, but generally tend to find new partners after that. Males attract females with the gifts of stones and by “trumpeting” skyward. If a female chooses a male they will both point their bills at the nest the female has built. The female lays 2 eggs which weigh about 130g each. The parents switch out incubation duties on a daily basis. The incubation period lasts about 35 days, and then the chicks stay in the nest another 30 days before forming crèches with other chicks for protection and warmth while they learn to fend for themselves. It will take about another month for the chicks to grow their feathers, at which point they’re able to venture out to the sea.

How long do Gentoo Penguins live?

Gentoo Penguins live about 15 to 20 years in the wild.

How many Gentoo Penguins are there today?

Estimates place the Gentoo Penguin population at over 600,000.

Do Gentoo Penguins have any natural predators?

Other seabirds like the Skua will steal eggs and try to make off with chicks. In the water all Gentoo Penguins are on the watch for seals, orcas, and sea lions.

8 Groovy Gentoo Penguin Facts

  • Nobody is exactly sure why the word “Gentoo” was applied to this particular type of Penguin. The only other association of the word came from the 1630s – it was an Anglo-Indian word used to distinguish Indian Hindus from Indian Muslims. This use of the word may have come from the Portuguese word “gentio” which refers to “gentiles.”
  • The scientific term “pygoscelis” means “rump-tailed” and refers to the long tail (for a penguin) that sweeps back and forth as they waddle along.
  • Gentoo Penguins are the 3rd largest Penguin species.
  • Unlike certain other Penguin species Gentoos do not have a yearly migration cycle.
  • Gentoo Penguins’ weight and height are found to increase the further they live from the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • Gentoo Penguins will only breed in areas clear of snow and ice.
  • Gentoo Penguins like clean nesting areas. If the previous year’s nesting area is covered with waste or is too trampled they will locate the next year’s area somewhere further down the coastline.
  • Gentoo Penguins are the only penguin species in the Antarctic Peninsula Region that are expanding both in numbers and in distribution. 

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