Scientific name: Eudyptes chrysolophus

Physical description

Macaroni penguins weigh from 4–7 kg and stand approximately 70 cm tall. Their size depends on their breeding stage and gender. Their longevity is not well known, but estimated at 20 years or more.

The scientific name is derived from the Greek meaning “good diver” (Eudyptes) "with a golden crest" (chrysolophus).

Macaroni penguins are closely related to royal penguins.

Distribution and abundance

Macaroni penguins have a circumpolar distribution. They are generally found on sub-Antarctic islands, although one colony is known to exist on the Antarctic Peninsula.

A huge colony is located near Cape Lockyer on Heard Island, a World Heritage protected area where the macaroni penguins build nest on surprisingly steep slopes.

The global population of breeding pairs was estimated at 6.3 million in 2013 — a rapid decline from previous decades. Long-term monitoring programs are in place at several breeding colonies to study population declines.

Conservation status: vulnerable


Breeding age is 5 years for females and 6 years for males. Macaroni penguins breed annually. Their breeding season is variable but is highly synchronized within colonies.

Unlike most other penguins, macaronis lay two eggs each breeding season. The second egg is bigger than the first and is typically the only one that hatches. Age to fledging is 60–70 days.

Diet and feeding

Macaroni penguins eat lots of Antarctic krill and a variety of fish. Foraging trips can range from 24 hours to 3 weeks. Macaroni penguins travel distances of 50 km to more than 2,000 km depending on breeding stage.

Macaroni penguins can dive over 220 m deep. Most dives go to 15–50 m deep.

Fur and leopard seals can kill adult macaroni penguins. Chicks and eggs are taken by skuas, sheathbills and giant petrels.