Macaroni Penguins – Fact File

This entry is part 22 of 47 in the series British Antarctic Survey
Macaroni Penguin
Macaroni Penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus

A regular follower of this blog, who wishes to remain anonymous (don’t worry, mum – it’s our little secret) frequently complains that there isn’t enough factual information in some of my posts so here goes on one of favourite subjects …

Macaroni Penguins are the largest of the six crested penguin species. They breed between October and March. Adults arrive at the colonies and lay an A egg and a B egg. Colonies are usually on rocky slopes or in the tussocks. In the majority of nesting attempts, the A egg will fail when the B egg is laid and the B egg will then subsequently succeed. Once the female has laid, the male and female share the responsibility of incubation for the first 12 days. This is then followed by a 10 day shift by the female, followed by a 12 day shift by the male. Once the chick has hatched, the male will continue to guard and incubate the chick for 20-25 days whilst the female completes daily foraging trips. This is followed by a “crèche” period, where chicks gather in small groups for protection, allowing both adults to forage.

Macaroni Penguin chicks left to entertain themselves whilst the adults forage
Macaroni Penguin chicks left to entertain themselves whilst the adults forage

Adults tend to stay on the colony overnight and forage from early morning until late evening. After the chicks have fledged, all birds will leave the colony and head to sea, often migrating north, until the following breeding season.

Fact File

Range – Mainly found breeding around the Antarctic Convergence – Sub Antarctic Islands and Antarctic Peninsula, south of other crested penguins
Status– Declining – IUCN threatened species
Productivity – 1 chick per nest
Incubation Period – 35 days
Fledging Period – 60-70 days

Close up of a macaroni chick - just a few more weeks until fledging
Close up of a macaroni chick – just a few more weeks until fledging

Total Population: 10,000,000 pairs
Largest populations: South Georgia 5,000,000 pairs
Diet: Mainly krill and small fish
Fact: Macaroni penguins complete an ‘ecstatic display’ in pairs, which allows pairs to recognise each other

Displaying Macaroni Penguins
Ecstatically displaying Macaroni Penguins

Weight: 4.5 – 6Kg
Height: 24-28 inches
Fact: Their crest develops with age

Macaroni Penguin giving it the loreal flick to maintain his perm behind an uninterested chinstrap
Macaroni Penguin giving it the l’Oreal flick to maintain his crest behind an uninterested chinstrap

Sexual Dimorphism: females smaller
Diving Depth: 50m – birds spend little or no time at the base of their dive meaning the dive is V shaped
Diving Time: 2 minutes

Sexual Maturity : 5 in females – 6 in males

Breeding macaroni penguins
Breeding macaroni penguins

Fact: Males will return to the same nest annually to display – more often than not breeding with the same female in consecutive years (mainly monogamous)
Predators: Leopard Seals, Antarctic Fur Seals and Killer Whales

One of the macaroni penguins predators - Antarctic Fur Seals
One of the Macaroni Penguins’ predators – Antarctic Fur Seals

Holiday Part 1 – Macaroni Penguins!

This entry is part 21 of 47 in the series British Antarctic Survey

I was recently lucky enough to go on holiday to the Barff Peninsula and revisit my angry friends, the Macaroni Penguins.

Macaroni penguins from the beach
Macaroni penguins on the Barff

Before I even got close to the rookery, I spent a few hours down on the beach watching the conveyer belt of  little penguins to-ing and fro-ing up the rocks.

Macaroni Penguins making there way down from the colonies to the waters edge
Macaroni Penguins making their way down from the colonies to the water

Regular visitors to this blog won’t be surprised to hear that it wasn’t long before I was observing the first acts of aggression between these feisty penguins!

It wasnt long before I was observing the first acts of aggression between these guys
Dirty mac on his way out of the colonies, displaying at a clean mac on his way in.
Territorial macaroni penguin shouting at the locals
Territorial macaroni penguin sorts out the locals

The colonies are very muddy places and so the first priority, once down, is to get clean.

They are even aggressive in the bath
They are even aggressive in the bath!

Within the largest group of macaroni penguins, there were three stunning chinstrap penguins trying to make friends

Seem to have chinstrap penguin observations everywhere at the moment. One of three trying to blend in with the macaroni penguins
We seem to have chinstrap penguins popping up everywhere at the moment. One of three trying to blend in with the macaroni penguins
It didnt take long for the Macaroni Penguins to find and 'welcome' the chinstraps
It didnt take long for the Macaroni Penguins to find and ‘welcome’ the chinstraps
And they were soon running away in search of refuge - just like watching baywatch
And they were soon running away in search of a safe haven – just like watching Baywatch
Unfortunately this only took them closer to the water which swept them back out to sea - taking a good number of macaroni penguins with them.
Unfortunately, this only took them closer to the breaking surf and they were swept out – taking a good number of macaroni penguins with them.

The chinstraps shouldn’t feel too hard done by as the macs don’t discrimate. They are angry and aggressive towards everything!

Small packages of angry penguin. This one is chasing away an inquisitive Giant Petrel
Small packages of aggression. This one is chasing away a hungry, inquisitive Giant Petrel

Some of the macaroni penguins intentionally made for the sea. I observed various levels of ocean entrances, but considering the sea state, I was impressed that any of them made the plunge at all.

Tom Daley would be proud - macaroni penguins diving into the surf and heading out to sea
Tom Daley would be proud – macaroni penguins diving into the surf and heading out to sea
Three macs, opting to wait for the surf to sweep them out
Three macs, opting to wait for the surf to sweep them out having attempted to dive into a puddle!

As I mentioned, penguins were both coming and going. Wave after wave was full of surfing penguins trying their hardest to dismount the wave at the perfect moment to avoid being smashed into the rocks below.

Penguin Surfing
Several penguins surfing the white water into the rocks
Penguins surfing the breaking waves into shore
Penguins within the waves
Penguin Surfing 2
Bottom left shows how it should be done and top right shows a penguin dismounting from a substantial height

Once landed, it’s a matter of scrambling to your feet and away from the breaking waves, before starting the long scramble back up to the colony.

Successfully out of the surf, the penguins make a made dash up the shore before the next wave breaks
Successfully out of the surf, the penguins make a mad dash up the shore before the next wave breaks
Macaronis belong to the rockhopper family and are incredible over rocks. This one landed safely and headed up to the colonies
Macaronis belong to the rockhopper family and are incredible over rocks. This one landed safely and headed up to the colonies

Having completed this very strenuous ordeal and successfully navigated to the rookery, the returning adults are greeted by these hungry, fluffy youngsters.

Couple of macaroni chicks waiting for their parents in the colony
All that effort for these guys! Mac chicks