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Gentoo Penguin

(Pygoscelis papua)

Short Description

The Gentoo Penguin is easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head. Chicks have grey backs with white fronts.

They are the fastest underwater swimming penguins, reaching speeds of 36 km/h and are capable of withstanding very harsh cold climates

Long Description

Adult Gentoo Penguins reach a height of 51 to 90 cm (20-36 in), making them the third largest penguins after the Emperor Penguin and the King Penguin.

Males have a maximum weight of about 8.5 kg (19 lb) just before moulting, and a minimum weight of about 4.9 kg (10.8 lb) just before mating. For females the maximum weight is 8.2 kg (18 lb) just before moulting, but their weight drops to as little as 4.5 kg (10 lb) when guarding the chicks in the nest.

Gentoo Penguins live mainly on crustaceans such as krill, with fish making up only about 15% of the diet. However, they are opportunistic feeders, and around the Falklands are known to take roughly equal proportions of fish, crustaceans and squid

Nests are usually made from a roughly circular pile of stones and can be quite large, 20 cm high and 25 cm in diameter. The stones are jealously guarded and their ownership can be the subject of noisy disputes between individual penguins. They are also prized by the females, even to the point that a male penguin can obtain the favors of a female by offering her a nice stone.

Two eggs are laid, both weighing around 500 g. The parents share incubation, changing duty daily. The eggs hatch after 34 to 36 days. The chicks remain in the nests for about 30 days before forming creches. The chicks molt into sub-adult plumage and go out to sea at about 80 to 100 days.


Gentoo Penguins breed on many sub-Antarctic islands. The main colonies are on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands. Smaller populations are found on Macquarie Island, Heard Islands, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. The total breeding population is estimated to be over 300,000 pairs and are considered Near Threatened (IUCN).

Sea lions, leopard seals, and orca are all predators of the Gentoo Penguin. On land there are no predators of the adult birds, but Skuas can steal their eggs and some other seabirds have managed to snatch chicks.

Distribution Map

Gentoo Penguin  Distribution Map


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