Chinstrap Penguin – Pygoscelis antarctica
Pygoscelis Genus – Brush-tailed Penguins
Height: 26-28 in.
Weight: 7.5- 11 lb.
Life expectancy in the wild: 12 years.
Approximated Population: 18 Million
Population tendency: Increasing
IUCN Conservation status: LC
Chinstrap penguins have the classic black and white coat that characterizes this kind of flightless birds, but there is one detail that let us easily differentiate them from the other 16 species: a black line in their face that comes from both sides of the head at eye level and joins below the beak. Their legs are bright pink, which contrasts with their body and their black claws. They have a long, odd tail that helps them balance when walking over the rocks.
Hatchlings are gray with white and do not show the thin line in the face that characterizes adults.
Their feathers and fat give them the protection to withstand the harsh temperatures of their habitat and help them minimize heat loss in the icy waters.
Where do they live?
They are a migratory species that maintain large populations on islands. They form large colonies but always keep the space between each other.
Chinstrap penguins inhabit the Sandwich Islands, South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, South Georgia, Balleny Islands, Bouvet Island and some single or lost individuals reach Australia, New Zealand, and even South Africa.
Their habitat is usually huge snowy mountains and areas covered with snow and ice. Other areas are mainly rocky and misty.
Chinstrap penguins are efficient and fast animals when hunting.
Skills and Behavior
They share territory with other species of penguins and occasionally have disputes over the ownership of the nests.
Chinstrap penguins are efficient and fast animals when hunting, diving only one to three minutes at a depth ranging from 69 to 138 ft.
They perform warning vocalizations while lifting their head. Nodding is another type of communication that is used to identify their partner. There are certain periods when they become more aggressive and often get into fights where their beaks become weapons, and the movements of the flippers show the level of irritability. Some battles are so severe that they end badly injured.
After a fast reproductive cycle, in late February they start the molting process that lasts about 13 days. By mid-March, they can return to the sea with their new plumage.
Chicks have their first molt at 50 or 60 days old, marking the beginning of their independent life.
What do they eat?
Antarctic krill, a small crustacean constitutes 99% of the chinstrap penguin diet. This diet provides them with the essential vitamins, proteins, and energy for their body. The remaining 1% is a variety of fish such as lantern fish.
Incubation period: 33 to 37 days.
Normal clutch: Two eggs
They are very devoted parents, but when the season is tough, there is a lot of stress or food is scarce, they may choose to leave the nest and abandon their offspring.
Approximately 65 % of the eggs develop successfully.
In late October or early November, males are the first to arrive at the nesting colonies, while females do it three to five days later. The nests are circular and built with stones.
Females usually lay two eggs with three to four days difference between each other and both parents are responsible for incubation. Approximately 65 % of the eggs develop successfully, while the rest usually suffer predation or are victims of flooding.
For three weeks, father and mother take turns to travel to the ocean and get food for their chicks. After that time, trips are less frequent, but they keep feeding their chicks that stay in the “nurseries.”
Chinstraps do not feed chicks that are not their own, therefore if they see a starving or abandoned one, they tend to ignore it.
The biggest threat to adults is the leopard seal. The main predators of eggs and chicks are the sheathbill and the brown skua.
Fortunately, it is a species with a large and increasing population in some areas.
Chinstrap range map
Salomon, David. Penguin-pedia, photographs and facts from one man’s search for the penguins pf the world. Brown Books. 2011.
BioExpedition Publishing © 2017.