Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)


Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family:    Spheniscidae
Size:    Length: 20 to 32 inches (51 to 81 cm)
Weight: 11 to 14 pounds (5 to 6 kg)
Diet: Krill, small fish, squid and plankton
Distribution: Antarctic
Young:  2 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Leopard seals, killer whales and sea lions
IUCN Status: Lower Risk, Near Threatened
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: 15 to 20 years



·      Gentoo penguins are featured on five postage stamps from around the world.

·      The nickname of the gentoo is the “Johnny penguin.”

·      They can run, jump, and slide on their bellies on sand or ice.

·      Gentoos can swim up to 15 miles (24 km) per hour underwater.



Gentoo penguins are the largest of the brush-tailed penguins found in the Antarctic. They have a black head, wings, tail and back with white undersides, and are easy to distinguish from other penguins by the white stripe that runs across the top of the head from one eye to the other. The bill is bright orange and black, their eyes are brown and their feet are orange with black claws. Males and females are the same in appearance, but the females are slightly smaller. 



Gentoo penguins can be found in the Antarctic on coastal islands such as the South Shetland Islands, as well as South Georgia, Heard, Kerguelen, and the Falkland Islands. 


Feeding Habits

Gentoo penguins live in cold climates and catch krill (small, shrimp-like animals) and small fish by diving into the icy water at depths of approximately 130 to 690 feet (40 to 210 m) below sea level. They also feed on squid and plankton. Gentoos are quick swimmers, using their flippers and tail to propel them through the water. 



Breeding takes place from early spring to autumn, which is late October to February in the Antarctic. Gentoos build their nests early to avoid competition with other penguins. A penguin pair builds a nest on the ground by digging out a shallow indentation or, if on rocky ground, by pushing together pebbles and rocks in a circular formation and lining the nest with twigs and/or grass. The female lays two eggs, two to three days apart. The parents take turns incubating the eggs, switching places every day. In a little over a month, the eggs hatch. The chicks grow quickly, and are covered by soft, gray down with white undersides. They huddle against their parents for warmth and protection. When they are approximately one month old, the young form groups with other penguins their own age. By the time they reach three months, the chicks have grown in their waterproof feathers and are old enough to be self-sufficient. 



Gentoo penguins live within large colonies that include Adélie and chinstrap penguins, although gentoos tend to be less gregarious. These penguins socialize with each other, but they are more timid of outsiders than other penguins. Gentoo penguins can be quite aggressive as they will sometimes fight over stones or take stones and other nesting materials away from other birds’ nests. 



Gentoos have a smaller population than any other penguin, but their numbers are stable at approximately 320,000 breeding pairs. The Falkland Island population suffered a decline during the 1980s and early 1990s, likely due to over-fishing, but has been stable since 1999. In the past, population decline was also due to egg collecting and capture of adults for extraction of oil. All penguin species are now protected by law from hunting and egg collecting.



Gentoo Penguin Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US