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Macaroni penguin

Macaroni penguin
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spheniscidae
Genus: Eudyptes
Species: E. chrysolophus
Binomial name
Eudyptes chrysolophus
(Brandt, 1837)
Macaroni penguin range
Breeding colonies in red

Catarractes chrysolophus Brandt, 1837[2]
Eudyptes saltator (Stephens, 1826)

The macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) is a species of penguin found from the Subantarctic to the Antarctic Peninsula. One of six species of crested penguin, it is very closely related to the royal penguin, and some authorities consider the two to be a single species. It bears a distinctive yellow crest, and the face and upperparts are black and sharply delineated from the white underparts. Adults weigh on average 5.5 kg (12 lb) and are 70 cm (28 in) in length. The male and female are similar in appearance, although the male is slightly larger and stronger with a relatively larger bill. Like all penguins, it is flightless, with a streamlined body and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine lifestyle. They also have red eyes.

Its diet consists of a variety of crustaceans, mainly krill, as well as small fish and cephalopods; the species consumes more marine life annually than any other species of seabird. These birds moult once a year, spending about three to four weeks ashore, before returning to the sea. Numbering up to 100,000 individuals, the breeding colonies of the macaroni penguin are among the largest and densest of all penguin species. After spending the summer breeding, penguins disperse into the oceans for six months; a 2009 study found that macaroni penguins from Kerguelen travelled over 10,000 km (6,200 mi) in the central Indian Ocean. With about 18 million individuals, the macaroni penguin is the most numerous penguin species. However, widespread declines in populations have been recorded since the mid-1970s. Their conservation status is being reclassified as vulnerable.


  • Taxonomy 1
  • Description 2
  • Distribution and habitat 3
    • Conservation 3.1
  • Life history 4
    • Diet 4.1
    • Predators 4.2
    • Courtship and breeding 4.3
  • Media appearances 5
  • References 6
    • Cited text 6.1
  • External links 7


The macaroni penguin was described from the Falkland Islands in 1837 by German naturalist Johann Friedrich von Brandt.[3] It is one of six or so species in the genus Eudyptes, collectively known as crested penguins. The genus name is derived from the Ancient Greek words eu "good", and dyptes "diver". The specific epithet chrysolophus is derived from the Greek words chryse "golden", and lophos "crest".[4]

The common name was recorded from the early 19th century in the Falkland Islands. English sailors apparently named the species for its conspicuous yellow crest;[5] Maccaronism was a term for a particular style in 18th-century England marked by flamboyant or excessive ornamentation. A person who adopted this fashion was labelled a "maccaroni" or "macaroni", as in the song "Yankee Doodle".[6]

Molecular clock evidence using DNA suggests the macaroni penguin split from its closest relative, the royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli), around 1.5 million years ago.[7] Although the two have generally been considered separate species, the close similarities of their DNA sequences has led some, such as the Australian ornithologists Les Christidis and Walter Boles, to treat the royal as a subspecies of the macaroni.[8][9] The two species are very similar in appearance, although the royal penguin has a white face instead of the usually black face of the macaroni.[10] Interbreeding with the Indo-Pacific subspecies of the southern rockhopper penguin (E. chrysocome filholi) has been reported at Heard and Marion Islands, with three hybrids recorded there by a 1987–88 Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition.[11]


Showing the conspicuous orange and yellow crests

The macaroni penguin is a large, crested penguin, similar in appearance to other members of the genus Eudyptes. An adult bird has an average length of around 70 cm (28 in);[3] the weight varies markedly depending on time of year and sex. Males average from 3.3 kg (7 lb) after incubating, or 3.7 kg (8 lb) after moult to 6.4 kg (14 lb) before moult, while females average 3.2 kg (7 lb) after to 5.7 kg (13 lb) before moult.[12] Among standard measurements, the thick bill (from the gape) measures 7 to 8 cm (2.8 to 3.1 in), the culmen being around a centimetre less. The wing, from the shoulder to the tip, is around 20.4 cm (8.0 in) and the tail is 9–10 cm (3.5–3.9 in) long.[13] The head, chin, throat, and upper parts are black and sharply demarcated against the white under parts. The black plumage has a bluish sheen when new and brownish when old. The most striking feature is the yellow crest that arises from a patch on the centre of the forehead, and extends horizontally backwards to the nape. The flippers are blue-black on the upper surface with a white trailing edge, and mainly white underneath with a black tip and leading edge. The large, bulbous bill is orange-brown. The iris is red and a patch of pinkish bare skin is found from the base of the bill to the eye. The legs and feet are pink. The male and female are similar in appearance, although males tend to be slightly larger.[3] Males also bear relatively larger bills, which average around 6.1 cm (2.4 in) compared to 5.4 cm (2.1 in) in females; this feature has been used to tell the sexes apart.[12]

Immature birds are distinguished by their smaller size, smaller, duller-brown bill, dark grey chin and throat, and absent or underdeveloped head plumes, often just a scattering of yellow feathers. The crest is fully developed in birds aged three to four years, a year or two before breeding age.[3]

Macaroni penguins

  • Macaroni penguins – Center for Biological Diversity
  • The Penguin Project at Washington University
  • The Penguin Page

External links

  • Williams, Tony D. (1995). The penguins: Spheniscidae. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.  

Cited text

  1. ^  
  2. ^ (Brandt, 1837)"Eudyptes chrysolophus"Species . Australian Biological Resources Study: Australian Faunal Directory. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Commonwealth of Australia. 9 October 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Williams (1995) p. 211
  4. ^  
  5. ^ J. Simpson, E. Weiner (eds), ed. (1989). "Macaroni". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.  
  6. ^ Steele, Valerie (1998). Paris Fashion: A Cultural History. Berg Publishers. pp. 21–32.  
  7. ^ Baker AJ, Pereira SL, Haddrath OP, Edge KA; Pereira; Haddrath; Edge (2006). "Multiple gene evidence for expansion of extant penguins out of Antarctica due to global cooling". Proc Biol Sci. 273 (1582): 11–7.  
  8. ^ Christidis L, Boles WE (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 98.  
  9. ^ Juliff, Peter (December 2008). "From the Pole to the Equator: A panoply of Penguins" (PDF). The Bird Observer (Bird Observation & Conservation Australia) (857). Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  10. ^ Williams (1995) p. 214
  11. ^ Woehler EJ, Gilbert CA, EJ; Gilbert, CA (1990). "Hybrid Rockhopper-Macaroni Penguins, interbreeding and mixed-species pairs at Heard and Marion Islands". Emu 90 (3): 198–210.  
  12. ^ a b Williams (1995) p. 213
  13. ^ Records
  14. ^ Riffenburgh, Beau (2007). Encyclopedia of the Antarctic. CRC Press. p. 605.  
  15. ^ a b c Williams (1995) p. 219
  16. ^ Woehler, EJ (1993). The distribution and abundance of Antarctic and subantarctic penguins. Cambridge, United Kingdom: SCAR/ Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.  
  17. ^ Oehler DA, Pelikan S, Fry WR, Weakley Jr L, Kusch A, Marin M, David A.; Pelikan, Steve; Fry, W. Roger; Weakley, Leonard; Kusch, Alejandro; Marin, Manuel (2008). "Status of Crested Penguin (Eudyptes) populations on three islands in Southern Chile". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120 (3): 575–81.  
  18. ^ Bernstein, Neil; Tirrell, Paul. ) on the Antarctic Peninsula"Eudyptes chrysolophus"Short Communications: New Southerly Record for the Macaroni Penguin ( (PDF). Auk. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  19. ^ a b c Curry, Tiera. "Macaroni Penguin". Center for Biological Diversity website. Center for Biological Diversity. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  20. ^ a b c Benstead, Phil; David Capper; Jonathan Ekstrom; Rachel McClellan; Alison Stattersfield; Andy Symes (2008). "Species Factsheet". BirdLife International (BirdLife International). Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  21. ^ Trathan PN, Croxall JP, Murphy EJ, Everson I, PN; Murphy, EJ; Croxall, JP; Everson, I (1998). "Use of at-sea distribution data to derive potential foraging ranges of Macaroni Penguins during the breeding season". Marine Ecology Progress Series 169: 263–75.  
  22. ^ Oehler DA, Fry WR, Weakley LA Jr, Marin M, David A.; Fry, W. Roger; Weakley, Leonard A.; Marin, Manuel (2007). "Rockhopper and Macaroni Penguin Colonies Absent from Isla Recalada, Chile". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119 (3): 502–506.  
  23. ^ Ellis S, Croxall JP, Cooper J (1998). Penguin Conservation Assessment and Management Plan. Apple Valley, Minnesota: IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group. 
  24. ^ Cresswell KA, Wiedenmann J, Mangel M, K. A.; Wiedenmann, J.; Mangel, M. (2008). "Can macaroni penguins keep up with climate and fishing induced changes in krill?". Polar Biology 31 (5): 641–49.  
  25. ^ Bost CA, Thiebot JB, Pinaud D, Cherel Y, Trathan PN; Thiebot; Pinaud; Cherel; Trathan (May 15, 2009). "Where do penguins go during the inter-breeding period? Using geolocation to track the winter dispersion of the macaroni penguin". Biology Letters 5 (4): 473–6.  
  26. ^ a b Williams (1995) p. 57
  27. ^ Williams (1995) p. 61
  28. ^ a b c Williams (1995) p. 216
  29. ^ Williams (1995) p. 190
  30. ^ a b c d Williams (1995) p. 215
  31. ^ Williams (1995) pp. 215–16
  32. ^ Splettstoesser J, Todd FS (1999). colonies in the Weddell Sea"Aptenodytes forsteri"Stomach stones from Emperor Penguin (PDF). Marine Ornithology 27: 97–100. 
  33. ^ Brown CR, Klages NT, C. R.; Klages, N. T. (1987). "Seasonal and annual variation in diets of Macaroni (Eudyptes chrysolophus chrysolophus) and Southern Rockhopper (E. chrysocome chrysocome) penguins at sub-Antarctic Marion Island". Journal of Zoology 212: 7–28.  
  34. ^ De Villiers MS, Bruyn PJN (2004). "Stone-swallowing by three species of penguins at sub-antarctic Marion Island" (PDF). Marine Ornithology 32 (2): 185–86. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  35. ^ Green JA, Wilson RP, Boyd IL, Woakes AJ, Green CJ, Butler PJ, Jonathan A.; Wilson, Rory P.; Boyd, Ian L.; Woakes, Anthony J.; Green, Chris J.; Butler, Patrick J. (2008). "Tracking macaroni penguins during long foraging trips using 'behavioural geolocation'". Polar Biology 32 (4): 645–53.  
  36. ^ Brooke MDL (2004). "The food consumption of the world's seabirds". Proceedings. Biological Sciences / the Royal Society. 271 Suppl 4 (Suppl 4): S246–48.  
  37. ^ Green JA, Boyd IL, Woakes AJ, Warren NL, Butler PJ, JA; Boyd, IL; Woakes, AJ; Warren, NL; Butler, PJ (2005). "Behavioural flexibility during year-round foraging in macaroni penguins". Marine Ecology–Progress Series 296: 183–96.  
  38. ^ Croxall JP, Prince PA, J. P.; Prince, P. A. (1980). "Food, feeding and ecological segregation of seabirds at South Georgia". Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 14: 103–31.  
  39. ^ Brown CR (1987). "Travelling speed and foraging range of macaroni and rockhopper penguins at Marion Island" (PDF). Journal of Field Ornithology 58: 118–25. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  40. ^ Green K, Williams R, Green MG (1998). at Heard Island"Eudyptes chrysolophus"Foraging ecology and diving behavior of Macaroni Penguins (PDF). Marine Ornithology 26: 27–34. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  41. ^ a b Bingham, Mike (2006). "Macaroni Penguin". International Penguin Conservation Work Group. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  42. ^ Williams (1995) p. 191
  43. ^ a b c d Williams (1995) p. 217
  44. ^ Williams (1995) p. 218
  45. ^ a b Williams (1995) p. 24
  46. ^ Williams (1995) p. 112
  47. ^ Williams (1995) p. 113
  48. ^ Commonwealth of Australia (2005). "Macaroni Penguins". Heard Island and McDonald Islands (Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts). Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  49. ^ Reynolds, Katie (2001). "Eudypteschrysolophus". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 


Media appearances

From the moment the egg is hatched, the male macaroni penguin cares for the newly hatched chick. For about 23 to 25 days, the male protects its offspring and helps to keep it warm, since only a few of its feathers have grown in by this time. The female brings food to the chick every one to two days. When they are not being protected by the adult male penguins, the chicks form crèches to keep warm and stay protected. Once their adult feathers have grown in at about 60 to 70 days, they are ready to go out to sea on their own.[49]

The fate of the first egg is mostly unknown, but studies on the related royal penguin and erect-crested penguin show the female tips the egg out when the larger second egg is laid. The task of incubating the egg is divided into three roughly equal sessions of around 12 days each over a five-week period.[43] The first session is shared by both parents, followed by the male returning to sea, leaving the female alone to tend the egg. Upon the male's return, the female goes off to sea and does not return until the chick has hatched.[41] Both sexes fast for a considerable period during breeding; the male fasts for 37 days after arrival until he returns to sea for around 10 days before fasting while incubating eggs and young for another 36 days, and the female fasts for 42 days from her arrival after the male until late in the incubation period.[46] Both adults lose 36–40% of their body weight during this period.[47] The second egg hatches around 34 days after it is laid. Macaroni penguins typically leave their breeding colony by April or May to disperse into the ocean.[19][48]

[45] Some of the yolk remains at hatching and is consumed by the chick in its first few days.[45] Like those of other penguin species, the shell is relatively thick to minimise risk of breakage, and the yolk is large, which is associated with chicks born in an advanced stage of development.[44] The two eggs together weigh 4.8% of the mother's body weight; the composition of an egg is 20% yolk, 66% albumen, and 14% shell.[43] A fertile macaroni penguin will lay two eggs each breeding season. The first egg to be laid weighs 90–94 g (3.2–3.3 oz), 61–64% the size of the 145–155 g (5.1–5.5 oz) second, and is extremely unlikely to survive.[43] Nests are densely packed, ranging from around 66 cm apart in the middle of a colony to 86 cm at the edges.[43] Adult macaroni penguins typically begin to breed late in October, and lay their

Female macaroni penguins can begin breeding at around five years of age, while the males do not normally breed until at least six years old. Females breed at a younger age because the male population is larger. The surplus of male penguins allows the female penguins to select more experienced male partners as soon as the females are physically able to breed.[41] Commencing a few days after females arrive at the colony, sexual displays are used by males to attract partners and advertise their territory, and by pairs once together at the nest site and at changeover of incubation shifts.[28] In the 'ecstatic display', a penguin bows forward, making loud throbbing sounds, and then extends its head and neck up until its neck and beak are vertical. The bird then waves its head from side to side, braying loudly.[42] Birds also engage in mutual bowing, trumpeting, and preening.[28] Monitoring of pair fidelity at South Georgia has shown around three-quarters of pairs will breed together again the following year.[15]

Eudyptes chrysolophus

Courtship and breeding

The macaroni penguin's predators consist of birds and aquatic mammals. The leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella), Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis), and killer whale (Orcinus orca) sometimes hunt adult macaroni penguins in the water. Colonies suffer low rates of predation if undisturbed; predators generally only take eggs and young that have been left unattended or deserted. Skua species, the snowy sheathbill (Chionis alba), and kelp gull (Larus dominicanus) prey on eggs, and skuas and giant petrels also sometimes take chicks.[15]


Foraging distance from colonies has been measured at around 50 km (31 mi) at South Georgia,[38] offshore over the continental shelf, and anywhere from 59 to 303 kilometres (37 to 188 mi) at Marion Island.[39] Macaroni penguins normally forage at depths of 15 to 70 m (49 to 230 ft), but have been recorded diving down to 100 m (330 ft) on occasions. Some night foraging does occur, but these dives are much shallower, ranging from only 3 to 6 m (9.8 to 19.7 ft) in depth. Dives rarely exceed two minutes in duration.[40] All dives are V-shaped, and no time is spent at the sea bottom; about half the time on a foraging trip is spent diving. Birds have been calculated as catching from 4 to 16 krill or 40 to 50 amphipods per dive.[30]

Foraging for food is generally conducted on a daily basis, from dawn to dusk when they have chicks to feed. Overnight trips are sometimes made, especially as the chicks grow older;[30] a 2008 study that used surgically implanted data loggers to track the movement of the birds showed the foraging trips become longer once the chick-rearing period is over.[35] Birds venture out for 10–20 days during incubation and before the moult.[30] Macaroni penguins are known to be the largest single consumer of marine resources among all of the seabirds, with an estimated take of 9.2 million tonnes of krill a year.[36] Outside the breeding season, macaroni penguins tend to dive deeper, longer, and more efficiently during their winter migration than during the summer breeding season. Year round, foraging dives usually occur during daylight hours, but winter dives are more constrained by daylight due to the shorter days.[37]

The diet of the macaroni penguin consists of a variety of crustaceans, squid and fish, although the proportions that each makes up vary with locality and season. Krill, particularly Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), account for over 90% of food during breeding season.[30] Cephalopods and small fish such as the marbled rockcod (Notothenia rossii), painted notie (Lepidonotothen larseni), Champsocephalus gunneri, the lanternfish species Krefftichthys anderssoni, Protomyctophum tenisoni and P. normani become more important during chick-rearing.[31] Like several other penguin species, the macaroni penguin sometimes deliberately swallows small (10– to 30-mm-diameter) stones; this behaviour has been speculated to aid in providing ballast for deep-sea diving,[32] or to help grind food, especially the exoskeletons of crustaceans which are a significant part of its diet.[33][34]


Living in colonies results in a high level of social interaction between birds, which has led to a large repertoire of visual, as well as vocal, displays.[26] These behaviours peak early in the breeding period, and colonies particularly quieten when the male macaroni penguins are at sea.[27] Agonistic displays are those which are intended to confront or drive off or, alternatively, appease and avoid conflict with other individuals.[26] Macaroni penguins, particularly those on adjacent nests, may engage in 'bill-jousting'; birds lock bills and wrestle, each trying to unseat the other, as well as batter with flippers and peck or strike its opponent's nape.[28] Submissive displays include the 'slender walk', where birds move through the colony with feathers flattened, flippers moved to the front of the body, and head and neck hunched, and general hunching of head and neck when incubating or standing at the nest.[29]

Like most other penguin species, the macaroni penguin is a social animal in its nesting and its foraging behaviour; its breeding colonies are among the largest and most densely populated. Scientist Charles Andre Bost found that macaroni penguins nesting at Kerguelen dispersed eastwards over an area exceeding 3×106 km2. Fitted with geolocation sensors, the 12 penguins studied travelled over 10,000 km (6,200 mi) in this period and spent their time largely within a zone 47–49°S and 70–110°E in the central Indian Ocean, not coming ashore once. This area, known as the Polar Frontal Zone, was notable for the absence of krill.[25]

Swimming at Twycross Zoo

Life history

Although the population of macaroni penguins is estimated at around 18 million mature individuals, a substantial decline has been recorded in several locations.[20] This includes a 50% reduction in the South Georgia population between the mid-1970s to mid-1990s,[21] and the disappearance of the species from Isla Recalada in Southern Chile.[22] This decline of the overall population in the last 30 years has resulted in the classification of the species as globally Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.[20] Long-term monitoring programs are underway at a number of breeding colonies, and many of the islands that support breeding populations of this penguin are protected reserves. The Heard Islands and McDonald Islands are World Heritage Sites for the macaroni penguin.[20] The macaroni penguin may be being impacted by commercial fishing and marine pollution.[23] A 2008 study suggests the abilities of female penguins to reproduce may be negatively affected by climate- and fishing-induced reductions in krill density.[24]


A 1993 review estimated that the macaroni was the most abundant species of penguin, with a minimum of 11,841,600 pairs worldwide.[16] Macaroni penguins range from the South Orkney Islands. They also occupy much of Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, including the northern South Shetland Islands, Bouvet Island, the Prince Edward and Marion islands, the Crozet Islands, the Kerguelen Islands, and the Heard and McDonald Islands.[18] While foraging for food, groups will range north to the islands off Australia, New Zealand, southern Brazil, Tristan da Cunha, and South Africa.[19]

Distribution and habitat


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