September 22, 2020
AZ Animals Staff
Chinstrap Penguin Facts:
Distinctive Feature: White face and thin, black line that runs under the chin
Habitat: Rocky Antarctic Islands
Favorite Food: Krill
Slogan: There are 7 million breeding pairs!
Chinstrap Penguin Physical Characteristics:Colour: Black, White, Grey
Skin Type: Feathers
Lifespan: 15 - 20 years
Weight: 3kg - 6kg (6.6lbs - 13lbs)
Height: 60cm - 68cm (24in - 27in)
"The largest chinstrap penguin colony has more penguins than San Francisco has people!”
The chinstrap penguin is the most abundant of all penguin species. In fact, one of their colonies has more than a million breeding pairs of penguins on a remote island!
Incredible Chinstrap Penguin Facts!
- The chinstrap penguin colony on Zavodovski Island in the South Atlantic Ocean is so large (numbering an estimated 1.2 million breeding pairs) that the Guinness Book of World Records declared it the world’s “Largest penguin colony!” For perspective, the island has more penguins than San Francisco has people! (To see what this incredible colony looks like, just scroll down to our “population section!)
- Many chinstrap penguins mate for life; mating pairs were found to get together 82 percent of the time.
- Chinstrap penguins are one of the most aggressive of the penguins.
Chinstrap Penguin Scientific Name and Classification
The Chinstrap penguin has the scientific name of Pygoscelis antarcticus. Chinstrap penguins are sometimes also referred to as P. Antarctica, which was a prior scientific name for the species. Its family name is Spheniscidae, and the class to which it belongs is Aves.
The Pygoscelis family is made up of three different penguins; together they are known as "brush-tailed" penguins. The chinstrap penguin is also called the ringed penguin, bearded penguin, and stonecracker penguin, which is a name given because of its loud noisy call.
The origin of the name penguin is not really known: A possibility is that it is from Welsh word, "pen" for head and "gwyn" meaning white.
Chinstrap Penguin Appearance and Behavior
With their black heads that look like a helmet, the black chinstrap markings give this penguin its name. Otherwise white-faced, the bills and eyes have a black color. Their feet are pink and the soles are black. Young penguins have a face that is grey in color and will reach the adult markings in 14 months.
They are not the largest of penguins; the chinstrap penguin is of a more medium size. Their length is 75 cm (29 inches), and they have an average weight of 5.5 kg (12 pounds).
This penguin has a voice that is very vocal when in its breeding colony. Chinstrap penguin sounds are very noisy; the penguin makes an "ah, kauk, kauk, kauk" as it raises its flippers and sways its head from side to side.
Within their breeding grounds, chinstrap penguins are very lively. They are often fighting and are known to wave head and flippers, call, bow, gesture and preen their coat. If a territorial dispute is happening, they may stare, point and charge.
The chinstrap penguin is very social and can be found in colonies with the Adélie penguin, cormorants or other similar penguins. Their nests are simple and in rocky hollows. When it comes to defending against other species and each other, they are the most aggressive of the brush-tailed penguins.
A group of penguins is called a colony. Other names for the same group include Waddle or rookery. A group of penguins on the ocean that are floating are called a raft.
Chinstrap Penguin Habitat
Sometimes they roost on ice with other penguin breeds, such as the Adélie penguin. Considered to be the most aggressive of penguins, they spend much of their life out at sea, where they might feed on small fish and krill.
They live in Antarctica and in the Scotia Sea, the South Orkneys, the South Shetland Islands and on the South Sandwich Islands, where the largest of their colonies found. They are on the beachfront of the Southern Ocean, and are often in rocky or sandy habitats. A few hundred birds live not far from New Zealand, in the Balleny Islands in the Ross Dependency area.
With early April, which is autumn in the southern hemisphere, the chinstrap penguin follows the schools of krill as they migrate further north to warmer waters with less ice.
Chinstrap Penguin Diet
The chinstrap penguin enjoys diving. It may catch some fish, squid, and shrimp, but the vast majority of its diet comes from eating krill. With an estimated biomass of 379 million tonnes in the Southern Ocean, krill are abundant in the waters near where chinstrap penguins have their colonies.
However, with the mean air temperature rising dramatically (as much as 5 to 6 degrees Celsius) in many of the areas penguins hunt krill, the rise and fall of krill populations has been hypothesized to be the driving factor in the fluctuations of penguin populations.
Chinstrap Penguin Predators and Threats
The main predators of the adult chinstrap penguin are leopard seals and killer whales. Studies of leopard seals have shown they can eat 1.4 to 5% of a colony of penguins during a breeding season. Leopard seals rely on stealth to hunt chinstrap penguins. They wait along the edges of ice sheets where penguins have congregated and catch penguins as they enter the water. Generally, once chinstrap penguins have entered open water they face fewer threats.
Other predators include sea lions and sharks. The eggs and chicks are in danger from skuas, predatory sea birds. The largest threat to leopard seals – as with other penguins species – is climate change which has affected the abundance of krill.
Chinstrap Penguin Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
Returning to the colony when seeking his mate, the male will beat on his chest with his flippers while raising his head to make a screeching sound. Other males often echo the same unique chinstrap penguin sounds when one has started to screech. Once the chinstrap penguin has found a mate, he will return to the same one every year; mating pairs reunite to form a special bond.
The breeding season is November/December through March. The chinstrap penguin lays two eggs; the timing is usually later than other penguin species nearby. Eggs are hatched by both the mother and father, who do shifts of 5 to 10 days. After about 37 days, the eggs hatch. The baby chick stays with its parents for about a month. Then it moves on to be with a group of young chicks.
A baby penguin is called a chick. They also might be referred to as nestlings. A group of baby penguins is called a crèche, where the chicks huddle together for warmth as well as against predators. This allows the parents to go hunting for food to bring back. After about two months, the fluffy down is replaced by waterproof feathers, and the chick is now ready to make their first trip to sea to hunt on their own.
The chinstrap penguin lives to be about 20 years old. The reported oldest living chinstrap penguin in North America was 32 years old in 2015 and was living in Moody Gardens in Texas.
Chinstrap Penguin Population
In August 2018 the IUCN estimated that the population of chinstrap penguins at 8 million individuals. They are the most abundant of all penguin species and listed as “Least Concern,” although overall their population is declining.
They are found on Circumpolar, Sub Antarctic and Antarctic islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. When breeding, they are not on ice but remain on the rocky coast. The most populous colony of chinstrap penguins is found on Zavodovski Island, which is an island in the South Sandwich Islands.
While this island is just is just 3 miles (5 km) long and 3 miles wide, it supports more than a million breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins!
Beyond Antarctica, chinstrap penguins have also be seen in the following areas:
The Falkland Islands
French Southern Territories
South Sandwich Islands
Islands off New Zealand
Chinstrap Penguin Facts
Their largest colony has been called “the smelliest place on Earth!”
With more than a million breeding pairs of penguins on a tiny island that’s just 3 miles (5 km) wide, you can imagine Zavodovski island is a pretty smelly place. However, beyond penguin droppings, sulfuric air from an active volcano on the island also produces noxious smells. Hailed by the UK’s Telegraph as “the world’s smelliest place,” the island’s features have names like Stench Point, Pungent Point, and Noxious Bluff.
Their largest colony is also threatened by a volcano
The stratovolcano on the island housing the largest colony of chinstrap penguins is named Mount Curry, and it began erupting in March, 2016. The eruption covered much of the island in ash, but also came at a time that chinstrap penguins had begun leaving their breeding grounds to forage at sea until the fall, which limited the impacts
Featured in Planet Earth II
The documentary series Planet Earth II filmed the chinstrap penguins on Zavodovski. To get to the remote island took more than a year of planning and the documentary crew had to cross some of the roughest seas on earth just to capture this remote environment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are chinstrap penguin carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?
The chinstrap penguin is considered a carnivore, as it eats squid, small fish, shrimp and krill. A carnivore eats other animals, so in the case of the chinstrap penguin, it eats other sea creatures. It does not eat seaweed or sea plants but relies on fish for its diet.
How fast can a chinstrap penguin swim?
In the sea, the chinstrap can swim up to 20 miles per hour. They like to swim every day in search of food. On land, they are known for their tobogganing skills, often sliding along on their stomachs.
Are chinstrap penguins endangered?
No. Like all penguin species, chinstrap penguins are threatened by climate change which has affected the abundance of their primary prey, which is krill. However, with a population of an estimated 8 million chinstrap penguins, today they are listed as “Least Concern.”View all 56 animals that start with C
How to say Chinstrap Penguin in ...
1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animal, The Definitive Visual Guide To The World's Wildlife
2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
3. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species
4. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
5. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals
6. A. Atkinson, V. Siegel, E.A. Pakhomov, M.J. Jessopp, V. Loeb, Available at: https://www.iced.ac.uk/documents/Atkinson%20et%20al,%20Deep%20Sea%20Research%20I,%202009.pdf
7. DAVID G. AINLEY, GRANT BALLARD, BRIAN J. KARL and KATIE M. DUGGER, Available at: https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/researchpubs/Leopard_seal_predation_rates.pdf
8. Guinness Book of World Records, Available at: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-penguin-colony/
9. IUCN Red List, Available at: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22697761/132601557