Macaroni Penguin

Antarctic Peninsula

Name: Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

Length: 70 cm

Weight: 5.5 kg

Location: Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Peninsula

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Diet: Krill, fish, crustaceans, squid

Appearance: Black, white belly, black face, orange crest flowing back from centre of forehead

What do Macaroni Penguins eat?

Macaroni Penguins spend 6 months at sea, foraging for fish, crustaceans, and squid. Like other types of penguins, they’ll swallow a number of small stones using them both for ballast and to grind up the shells of the small crustaceans they catch. During the mating season krill becomes a more important source of food. Macaroni Penguins are thought to be the largest consumer of marine resources out of all sea birds – they’ll gobble up over 9,000,000 tonnes of krill in a year. Macaroni Penguins on the hunt will usually dive anywhere from 15 metres to 70 metres but have been recorded as going as deep as 100 metres on less-frequent occasions. The dives last somewhere around 2 minutes.

Do Macaroni Penguins socialize?

Like most other penguins, Macaroni Penguins form vast colonies and foraging groups. Males can display aggressive behaviour towards other males, sometimes locking beaks and slappy-fighting each other with their flippers. To keep things calm, the penguins will ease through the colony with a non-aggressive posture of the head tucked down toward the chest.

How fast can Macaroni Penguins go?

Macaroni Penguins usually swim at about 15 km per hour, but can burst up to 24 km per hour.

What are Macaroni Penguin mating rituals like?

Female Macaroni Penguins mature sexually at 5 years old, males at 6. During the warmer Antarctic summer months (starting around October) Macaroni Penguins will return to colonies that can number up to 100,000 individual members. If they’ve bred before, the majority will return to their previous mating partners. The female will generally lay two eggs, with the first smaller egg being discarded once the larger second egg arrives. Incubation duties are split up. For about the first 12 days both adult penguins will remain to keep the egg warm. Then the male will leave for the following 12 days to go and hunt, switching off for a final 12 days so the female can hunt. The adult left behind will not eat; by the end of this total period an adult will lose about 40% of its weight. The egg hatches approximately 35 days after being laid. For most of the next month the male will stay to protect the chick from both the elements and predatory birds while the female adult will hunt to bring back food for the chick. Like other penguins Macaroni Penguin chicks will form a crèche to help keep each other warm while their protective feathers grow in to replace their fuzzy down. After about 2 to 2 ½ months the colony returns to the sea.

How long do Macaroni Penguins live?

The average Macaroni Penguin lives up to 20 years.

How many Macaroni Penguins are there today?

Macaroni Penguins are the most numerous species of penguins with over 18,000,000 individuals alive today.

Do Macaroni Penguins have any predators?

Chicks and eggs are vulnerable to predatory sea birds like the Skua and Petrels. Adults in the sea are preyed upon by a variety of seals and Killer Whales.

7 Marvellous Macaroni Penguin Facts

  • The name “Macaroni” refers to the orange plume feathers. “Macaroni” was 18th Century English slang for a man who dressed beyond the dictates of fashion (like in the song “Yankee Doodle”).
  • Macaroni Penguins can travel 400 km to find a hunting site.
  • Eudyptes” derives from the Greek words for “good diver” and “chrysolophus” comes from “golden” and “crest.”
  • Like most penguins, Macaroni Penguins will moult once a year, replacing worn-out feathers with new ones.
  • The nests of Macaroni Penguins are barely deserving of the name, usually being little more than a scrape in the ground with the occasional bit of grass for a lining.
  • Macaroni Penguins are the largest of the crested penguins. 
  • Macaroni Penguins are hoppers rather than waddlers.

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