Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

loading
Gentoo penguin adult and chick
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Gentoo penguin fact file

Gentoo penguin description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderSphenisciformes
FamilySpheniscidae
GenusPygoscelis (1)

This charismatic marine bird is easily distinguished from other penguins by its bright orange-red bill and the conspicuous white patches above each eye (3). These white patches, which usually meet across the crown, contrast highly with the black head and throat, but there may also be a scattering of white feathers on the head. The white underparts are sharply separated from the penguin’s bluish-black back, which appears browner as the feathers become worn (3). The gentoo penguin has pale whitish-pink webbed feet and a fairly long tail - the most prominent tail of all penguins (2) (3) (4). As the gentoo penguin waddles along on land, its tail sticks out behind, sweeping from side to side, hence the scientific name Pygoscelis, which means ‘brush-tailed’ (4). The gentoo penguin calls in a variety of ways, but the most frequently heard is a loud trumpeting which is emitted with its head thrown back (5).

Size
Height: 73 – 81 cm (2)
Male weight: 4.9 – 8.5 kg (3)
Female weight: 4.5 – 8.2 kg (3)
Top

Gentoo penguin biology

A gregarious bird, but less so than some other penguin species (2), the gentoo can form breeding colonies ranging from thirty to thousands of pairs (5). Arriving at suitable nesting ground between June and November (the exact date depending on the location) (2), each pair of penguins will set about the task of constructing a nest from stones, tussock grass and moss (2). The penguins tear up plants to use as nest material and fertilise the ground with their droppings, resulting in grass growing well the subsequent year, hence their favourable reputation with sheep farmers (5).

Into these nests two white, spherical eggs are laid, which are incubated by both the male and female for 31 to 39 days (2). The penguin chicks fledge after 85 to 117 days, but continue to be fed by their parents for a further 5 to 50 days. Gentoo penguins, which reach sexual maturity at the age of two years (2), are not only faithful to certain nest sites, with most returning to the previous year’s nest, but they are also loyal to breeding partners, with many forming long-lasting pair bonds (3).

Walking with a rather comedic, waddling gait on land, the gentoo penguin shows its true talents when in the water. With its stream-lined body and ‘flippers’ that provide effective propulsion through the water (6), the gentoo penguin dives deep into the ocean in pursuit of its prey, and is capable of reaching impressive depths of up to 170 metres (3). The exact diet of the gentoo penguin varies depending on location, but can include Atlantic krill, other crustaceans, fish, cephalopods and polychaetes (2).

Top

Gentoo penguin range

The gentoo penguin has a circumpolar distribution, breeding on sub-Antarctic Islands and the Antarctic peninsula (3). Two subspecies of the gentoo penguin are recognised (2): Pygoscelis papua papua breeds mainly on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, Kerugulen, Heard, Macquarie and Staten Islands, while Pygoscelis papua ellsworthi breeds on the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Island, South Orkney and South Sandwich Island (3). The gentoo’s non-breeding range is not fully known, but they have been found as far north as New Zealand, Australia and Argentina (3).

See this species on Google Earth.

Top

Gentoo penguin habitat

This marine bird can be found searching for food in inshore waters (2). When breeding, the gentoo penguin favours flat ground (2), either close to the coast or a considerable distance inland (3), where it nests in rocky areas, sometimes amongst vegetation (2).

Top

Gentoo penguin status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

Top

Gentoo penguin threats

Although not globally threatened with extinction, some gentoo penguin colonies have declined (1). While those on the Antarctic Peninsula appear to be increasing overall, populations on sub-Antarctic islands may have decreased considerably (1). For example, populations on Bird Island (South Georgia) have decreased by around 67 percent since 1980 (1). In the past, some colonies were affected by the collection of eggs for human consumption and the hunting of adults for their oil (2). Today, possible reasons behind population declines include local pollution, interaction with fisheries, and disturbance by humans (1); colonies on Kerguelen Island and Possession Island are said to have been disturbed by the presence of scientific bases (2).

Top

Gentoo penguin conservation

The gentoo penguin breeds in a number of protected areas, including MacQuarie Island and Heard Island, which are both Natural World Heritage Sites (7), and Prince Edward Islands Special Nature Reserve (8). To prevent the charming gentoo becoming threatened with extinction, the global bird conservation organization BirdLife International have recommended that efforts need to be made to avoid any disturbance of breeding colonies, and that colonies should be subject to long-term monitoring (8).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For further information on the conservation of penguins see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
Top

Glossary

Cephalopods
From the Greek for ‘head-foot’, a class of molluscs that occur only in marine habitats. All species have grasping tentacles, and either an internal or external shell. Includes nautiloids, cuttlefish, squids, octopuses, and extinct ammonites and belemnites.
Colonies
A group of organisms living together. Individuals in the group are not physiologically connected and may not be related, such as a colony of birds. Another meaning refers to organisms, such as bryozoans, which are composed of numerous genetically identical modules (also referred to as zooids or ‘individuals’), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
Crustaceans
Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Polychaetes
Polychaetes means ‘many bristled’; this class of worms are segmented and bear many ‘chaetae’ (bristles).
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Williams, T.D. (1995) Bird Families of the World: The Penguins. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. British Antarctic Survey (June, 2008)
    http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/about_antarctica/wildlife/birds/penguins/gentoo.php
  5. Woods, R.W. (1975) The Birds of the Falkland Islands. Anthony Nelson, Shropshire, UK.
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  7. World Database on Protected Areas (July, 2008)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/wdpa
  8. BirdLife International (July, 2008)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SitHTMDetails.asp&sid=7176&m=0
X
Close

Image credit

Gentoo penguin adult and chick  
Gentoo penguin adult and chick

© Tim Laman / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
Bristol
BS1 5RR
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699
info@naturepl.com
http://www.naturepl.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in the Antarctic eco-region

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog