Gentoo Penguin


How do I describe the Gentoo Penguin?

Latin Name: Pygoscelis papua

Height: 72 - 81 cm (28.3 - 31.9 in)

Male Weight: 4.9 - 8.5 kg (10.8 - 18.7 lbs)

Female Weight: 4.5 - 8.2 kg (9.9 - 18.0 lbs)

  • sharp contrast between white underparts and blueish black feathers that become brown as they wear out
  • white patches above eyes
  • communicates by a loud trumpeting with the head thrown back
  • walks on land with tail sticking up
  • this is how they got their Latin name (pygoscelis means "brushed tailed")


Photo credit: Aztlek via photopin cc

Where does the Gentoo Penguin belong in the food chain?

Gentoo penguins are carnivores.

Main Diet: fish, squid, krill
  • finds their food near the shore but sometimes as far as 26 kilometers (16 miles) away (NG)

Gentoo penguins' prey: fish, squid, krill, crustaceans, fish, cephalopods (squid, octopus, cuttlefish), and polychaetes (marine worms) (ARK).

Gentoo penguins' predators:

  • in sea: leopard seals, seal lions, orcas
  • on land: humans for their oil and skin
  • eggs and chicks have skuas and caracaras as threats (NG)

Gentoo Penguin Slap


What is its habitat like?

There are two subgroups of Gentoo penguins; both live in circumpolar areas (Antarctic/Arctic).

  • Pygoscelis Papua - Falkland Islands and South Georgia, Kerugulen, Heard, Macquarie, Staten Islands.
  • Pygoscelis Ellsworthi - Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland, South Orkney, South Sandwich Islands (ARK)


  • stays away from icy areas; prefers coastal plains, sheltered valleys, cliffs (NG)
  • prefers circumpolar climate (ARK)
  • lives in nests during breeding times and lives in the rock strewn Antarctic Lands (NG)

How has the Gentoo Penguin adapted?

To survive Gentoo penguins...
  • are partial to ice free zones which allow them to live in places where ice is melting (NG)
  • have white bellies - predators look up, they blend with the sky and ice
  • have black backs - predators look down, they blend with the ocean floor (Schlein, pg 7)

Adaptations for food include...

  • strong paddle-shaped flippers propel them up to 35 kph (22 mph)
  • the ability to remain underwater for more than 7 minutes
  • the ability to dive up to 200 meters (655 feet) to get prey (NG)

Why are they endangered?


  • egg collection on Falkland Islands
  • oil exploration
  • tourists affect the breeding of the penguins
  • water pollution
  • fisheries decrease food supply

What is being done to help? There are currently no conservation actions however they are protected by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 (NG).

What can be done:

  • long-term monitoring
  • minimal disturbance to breeding colonies
  • minimal oil and other pollution