Thursday, April 3, 2014

Macaroni Penguin

Eudyptes chrysolophus
What would an Antarctica Theme be without a Penguin? Today we have a seriously awesome looking species-- the Macaroni Penguin. What a wonderful hairdo!

Of course, that isn't really hair, just long feathers forming a vibrant crest. But it is that crest that gives the species its common name. Macaroni was an 18th and early 19th century term for a flamboyant fashion style that used excessive amounts of ornamentation. British soldiers traveling in the Falkland Islands (where these guys live, in addition to Antarctica) coined the common name.

Macaroni Penguins are, like most Penguins, very social birds. They forage (almost exclusively for Krill) and nest together, and have developed a large number of communication displays because of the large population size. These birds take on specific poses and mannerisms depending on the situation-- aggression, submission, courtship, etc-- and they also have a large repertoire of cries and brays.

Most Macaroni Penguins are monogamous and stay with the same partner season to season. Weirdly, these birds lay two eggs each season, and the first of which is usually smaller and underdeveloped. It is believed that the parents abandon the first egg once the second, stronger egg is laid.

Macaroni Penguins are listed as Vulnerable even though it is estimated that there are around 18 million birds. Why the designation? Rapid population decline. Groups in certain areas have decreased in number by 50% since the 1970s-- a drop that is very concerning. It is believed that climate changes and a decrease in Krill are to blame.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Antarctica, South America
Size : Length up to 28in (.7m), Weight up to 12lbs (5.5kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Sphenisciformes
Family : Spheniscidae -- Genus : Eudyptes -- Species : E. chrysolophus
Image :  Liam Quinn

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