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Macaroni Penguins, Eudyptes chrysolophus

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Description & Behavior

Macaroni penguins, Eudyptes chrysolophus (Brandt, 1837), are wonderful rather large, crested penguins with yellow plumes of feathers rising from their foreheads, extending back along the crown of their heads, and down behind their eyes. Their backs, heads, chins, throats and chests are black; their bellies are white, and their flippers are black on the dorsal (upper) sides and white on the ventral (under) sides. Macaroni penguins have large orange bills, red eyes, and pink feet. Juveniles do not have the head plumes of adults and their bills are smaller and darker. Macaroni penguins average about 70 cm tall and weigh about 5.5 kg.

World Range & Habitat

Macaroni penguins, Eudyptes chrysolophus, have a circumpolar range and at least 50 known breeding sites are found on sub-Antarctic islands in the South Atlantic and southern Indian Oceans. One Macaroni penguin breeding site has been identified on the Antarctic Peninsula. The primary breeding colonies, or rookeries, are found on the islands of Crozet, Heard, Keruguelen, McDonald, and South Georgia, however the South Georgia populations have decreased dramatically over the past 20 years. Breeding colonies are commonly found on rocky slopes. Little is known about the range of this species outside breeding season, however scientists believe Macaroni penguins remain in the open ocean.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Macaroni penguins, Eudyptes chrysolophus, forage during the day on krill and small fish. Dives have been recorded at average depths of around 15-70 m for about 2-3 minutes, although some have been observed diving to 100 m.

Skua gulls

Sea lions and orcas are known predators of this species at sea, and gulls, skua gulls (pictured above) and other sea birds are known to take eggs and chicks.

Life History

Male Macaroni penguins reach sexual maturity at 5 years for males and 6 for females. Males return to the breeding colonies each year in October and November, followed by the females a short time later. Like other penguin species, Macaroni penguins are monogamous and pairs reunite at their nest location, identifying each other through their distinctive calls. Mating behavior includes the 'ecstatic display' where the pairs swing their heads from side to side. Nests are shallow burrows in the ground lined with grass. Females lay 2 eggs, the 2nd of which is typically the larger egg chosen for incubation by both parents, which lasts for about 37 days. The pair alternates incubation in 3 shifts; the first lasts 8-12 days and is shared by the parents. The second lasts about 2 weeks and is taken by the female while the male forages at sea. The final shift lasts between 9-11 days and is taken by the male while the female forages at sea. Newly hatched chicks are brooded by the male for about 3 weeks and the female forages and feeds the chicks daily with regurgitated food. When the chicks develop their adult plumage, they leave the nest and form small crèches (groups of chicks) while both parents forage. Most chicks fledge at about 2 months of age when they have developed their waterproof plumage.

Macaroni penguins are the most common and abundant penguin species with an estimated global population of about 9 million breeding pairs.

Conservation Status & Comments

Macaroni penguins have experienced declines in population due to predation by land mammals. In addition, commercial krill fishing has reduced the amount of food available for Macaroni penguins and human activity such as oil spills and tourism have also jeopardized this species in some areas.

Macaroni penguins, Eudyptes chrysolophus, are listed as Vulnerable A2bc+3bc+4bc (VU) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

VULNERABLE (VU) - A taxon is Vulnerable when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Vulnerable (see Section V), and it is therefore considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

References & Further Research

Center for Biological Diversity: Penguins
Macaroni Penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus - International Penguin Conservation Working Group
Birds of the World by Marcus G. Martin -

Research Eudyptes chrysolophus » Barcode of Life ~ Taxonomy ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species + Database ~ WoRMS

Search for Macaroni Penguins » ARKive ~ Flickr ~ Google ~ Creative Commons search ~ Wikipedia ~ YouTube

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