Chinstrap Penguin – Photo Brendon Grunewald

Latin name: Pygoscelis antarcticus

Population: 6.5 to 7.5 million pairs.

Conservation Status: Least Concern (IUCN, 2009)

Length: 66-76 cm

Weight: 3.2 to 5.3 kg

Mating/Breeding: On land they build circular nests from stones, and lay two eggs, which are incubated by both the male and the female for shifts of 6 days. They can also breed on icebergs, though they prefer non-icy conditions. The chicks hatch after about 37 days. They stay in the nest for 20–30 days before they go to join a crèche. At around 50–60 days old, they moult, gaining their adult plumage and go to sea.

Hunting Habits: Chinstrap penguins are shallow divers, and like all other penguin species they feed by pursuit, pecking out their food as they swerve from side to side under water.

Feed on: Chinstrap penguins feed almost exclusively on krill. Other crustaceans and fish play a minor role.

Threats: They are not globally threatened. Antarctic giant petrels and skuas are the primary predators of chicks in colonies. Leopard seals take young when they enter the sea after moulting and adults. Adults are also taken by killer whales.

Colour/Looks: Chinstrap penguins are medium-sized penguins, easily recognised by their white face and the fine black line across the cheeks. The demarcation between the black and white lies above the eye, isolating the dark eye in the white plumage. The bill is black.

In contrast to most other penguins, juvenile Chinstraps closely resemble their parents. Until their first moult, juveniles can be recognised by dark spotting around the eyes and a slightly shorter bill.

Where found: Chinstrap penguins are found in the South Sandwich Islands, Antarctica, the South Orkneys, South Shetland, South Georgia, Bouvet Island and Balleny. They often live on large icebergs in the open ocean. Chinstraps leave their breeding colonies during winter, probably migrating north of the pack-ice and stay at sea until the next spring.

Interesting Trivia:

·         The Chinstrap penguin was first spotted by German naturalist Forster in 1781.

·         Chinstrap penguins are some of the boldest and most aggressive penguins.

·         Chinstrap penguins on land often toboggan – laying on their stomachs, propelling themselves by their feet, and using their flippers. They climb using all four limbs and are able to jump large distances to reach footholds.

·         Chinstraps can reach depths of 70 m (230 ft), but most dives are less than 45 m (148 ft).

More info:

Hadoram Shirihai, A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife (2002)

David McGonigal & Lynn Woodworth, Antarctica and the Arctic. The complete encyclopedia (2001)