Friday, November 12, 2010

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguins (pronounced jen-TOO) stand about 30 inches tall and are the third largest species of penguin, behind the Kings and Emperors. They also possess one of the widest distributions of all penguins, inhabiting the shores of Antarctica and numerous islands including the Falklands and South Georgia. Their genus, Pygoscelis, also contains the Chinstrap and Adeilie Penguins.
(Image Source)
(Image Source)

Pygoscelis papua is identified by its vividly bright orange beak and feet. They also have a "cap" of white feathers that runs over their head from eye to eye. Gentoo Penguins are carnivorous, and consume crustaceans, small cephalopds, and fish. Hunting is done close to their breeding colonies. When hunting, the penguins are able to dive over 300ft, and can reduce their normally 80-100bpm heart rate down to only 20bpm. During a single day, an individual penguin may dive for food several hundred times!

Gentoo nests are typically found on rocky shores, and are built from a wide variety of materials, including grasses, feathers, and pebbles. Two eggs are typically laid, and the parents will care for both chicks equally, but in time of food scarcity only the strongest chick will usually survive. After about a month the chicks will form creches, which are groups of young penguins. They will continue to seek assistance from their parents until they are around 3 months old. Nesting sites do not remain the same from year to year, though many couples will retain long-term bonds.

At sea, the Gentoo Penguin has many predators, including Sea Lions, Seals, and Orcas. While on land they have more protection, though eggs and chicks are sometimes nabbed up by predatory birds. There are roughly 300,000 current breeding pairs, and they are legally protected from human hunting and egg gathering.

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