Macaroni Penguin

Named for their orange plume feathers, these shallow-nesting hoppers are the largest of the crested penguins

Antarctic Peninsula

Name: Macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

Length: 70 cm (27.6 inches)

Weight: 5.5 kg (12 pounds)

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 six months at sea while foraging for fish, crustaceans, and squid. Like other penguins, they swallow small stones to use for ballast and to help grind up the shells of the small crustaceans they catch. 

During the mating season, krill becomes an important source of food for penguins. Macaroni penguins are thought to be the largest consumer of marine resources of all sea birds, eating tons of krill per year. 

Macaroni penguins on the hunt dive anywhere from 15 to 70 metres (49 to 229 feet) but have been recorded as going as deep as 100 metres (330 feet). The dives last somewhere around two minutes.

Do macaroni penguins socialize?

Like most other penguins, macaroni penguins form vast colonies and foraging groups. Male macaroni penguins can display aggressive behavior toward other males, sometimes locking beaks and slap-fighting with their flippers. 

To keep things calm, macaroni penguins ease through their colonies with their heads tucked down toward their chests.

How fast can macaroni penguins move?

Macaroni penguins usually swim at about 15 kph (9.3 mph) but can burst up to 24 kph (15 mph).

What are macaroni penguin mating rituals like?

Female macaroni penguins mature sexually at five years old, males at six. During the warmer Antarctic summer months (starting around October), macaroni penguins 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 macaroni penguin generally lays two eggs, discarding the first smaller one after the larger second egg arrives. 

Incubation duties are split up. For about the first 12 days, both adult macaroni penguins keep the egg warm. The male penguin will then leave for the following 12 days to go hunt, trading places afterward for another 12 days so the female can hunt.

The adult macaroni penguin left behind will not eat, so it will lose about 40% of its weight by the end of these periods.

Macaroni penguin eggs hatch approximately 35 days after being laid. Like other penguins, macaroni penguin chicks form a crèche, or nursery, to help keep each other warm while their protective feathers replace their fuzzy down. After about two months, the colony returns to sea.

How long do macaroni penguins live?

The average macaroni penguin lives about 20 years.

How many macaroni penguins are there today?

Macaroni penguins are the most numerous species of penguin, 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 skuas and petrels, while adult macaroni penguins on the sea are preyed upon by a variety of seals and killer whales, or orcas.

Seven marvellous macaroni penguin facts

  • The name “macaroni” refers to the orange plume feathers. “Macaroni” was eighteenth 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 (250 miles) to find a hunting site.
  • Eudyptes” is Greek for “good diver” and “chrysolophus” comes from “golden” and “crest.”
  • Like most penguins, macaronis moult once a year to replace worn-out feathers with new ones.
  • The nests of macaroni penguins are usually little more than a scrape in the ground with occasional bits of grass for lining.
  • Macaroni penguins are the largest of the crested penguins. 
  • While some penguings waddle, macaroni penguins hop

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