The gentoo penguin is a medium to large-sized penguin living in and around Antarctica. The map below shows their range, with Antarctica in the middle of the map. The light red is where they live in the ocean, and the darker red is their land range. As with most penguins, males and females look alike. These birds can be recognized from other penguins by the white patch they have above their eyes. Another distinguishing factor is that gentoo penguins have orange or red beaks while the beaks of most other penguins are black. Some people recognize two subspecies of the gentoo penguin – a smaller one on the antarctic peninsula and a larger one elsewhere. Click here to see some videos about gentoo penguins.
Gentoo penguins are the third largest penguins in the world after only the king and emperor penguins. These birds stand from 28 to 32 inches tall (73-81 cm). Males, which are larger than females, weigh up to 19 pounds (8.5 kg) while females are very slightly lighter.
As with most penguins, the gentoo penguins’ favorite foods are fish and krill. Sometimes other crustaceans and squid are eaten. Gentoo penguins normally hunt close to shore in depths of 65 to 328 feet (20-100 m), but occasionally they have been recorded diving to depths of up to 656 feet (200 m)! These birds can make up to 450 dives for food in one day!
Gentoos are rather clumsy on the land but graceful in the water. They are actually the fastest swimming penguins reaching speeds of up to 30 miles (48 km) per hour! While it is not known exactly how fast they can run, gentoo penguins can outrun most humans over short distances.
Threats, predators, and status
Th IUCN redlist classifies these birds as Near threatened. Although these birds are not threatened with complete extinction, some colonies have declined in population. While the colonies on the Antarctica peninsula have been increasing, the colonies on islands surrounding Antarctica have been decreasing. The population on Bird Island in South Georgia for example has decreased by 67% since 1980. In the past, threats to these animals included the collection of their eggs for human consumption and the hunting of the adults for the oil they contain. Today, threats to gentoo penguins may include pollution, fisheries catching the penguins’ food or even the penguins, and other interactions with humans. There are also some natural predators of gentoo penguins. Some of these include sea lions, leopard seals, and killer whales. Some birds of prey are known to steal these penguins’ eggs and chicks. There is an estimated world population of about 320,000 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins.
Mating and eggs
As I mentioned earlier, these penguins live in colonies. These colonies can contain as few as thirty pairs or in the thousands, although when this number exceeds a couple hundred, the colonies might split into multiple sub-colonies. Gentoo penguins make their nests on the ground, and these egg-houses are made of stones, sticks, grass, feathers, and many other materials. Each mating female lays two eggs during October. These eggs weigh about 4.5 oz (130 g). This is about twice the weight of a medium-sized chicken egg. These eggs incubate for thirty-one to thirty-nine days with the parents switching off incubation duties every one to three days.
Gentoo penguin chicks fledge from 85 to 117 days after hatching, but the parents continue feeding them for up to fifty more days. These young, while they have the white marking I mentioned earlier, do not have it connected to the white circle around their eye until after a few molts. In the wild these animals can live up to twenty years.
Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!
- Gentoo penguin – Liam Quinn
- Gentoo penguin range map – Nrg800
- Mystery animal- Kaldari