Scientific name: Eudyptes chrysolophus

Physical description

Macaroni penguins weigh from 4–7kg and stand approximately 70cm 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

Breeding age is 5 years for females and 6 years for males. Macaroni penguins breed annually. Thier 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 50km to more than 2,000km depending on breeding stage.

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

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

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