Macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

loading
Macaroni penguin on glacier with one wing raised
IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable VULNERABLE

Top facts

  • The largest gathering of macaroni penguins is on South Georgia Island, with almost 3 million breeding pairs
  • The macaroni penguin's yellow crest feathers reminded explorers of trendy hats worn by 18th century men called 'macaronis'
  • Although the macaroni penguin lays 2 eggs, the second egg is always larger than the first and is generally the only successful one
  • An estimated four million tonnes of krill are consumed by macaroni penguins every year
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Macaroni penguin fact file

Macaroni penguin description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderSphenisciformes
FamilySpheniscidae
GenusEudyptes (1)

The macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) is a large, crested penguin, similar in appearance to other members of the genus Eudyptes, but larger than all other species except the royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) (4). Adult macaroni penguins have golden-yellow plume-like feathers that arise from a central patch on the forehead, extending back along the crown and drooping down behind the eye (2) (4). The head, chin, throat and upperparts are black, the underparts are white, and the flippers are black on the upper surface but mainly white below (4). The large bill is orange-brown, the eyes are red and there is a patch of bare pink skin from the base of the bill to the eye. The legs and feet are pink. Male and female macaroni penguins are similar in appearance, but males tend to be slightly larger (4). Immature macaroni penguins lack the head plumes or have a few sparse yellow feathers on the forehead; their bills are smaller than those of adults and are brownish-black in colour, while the chin and throat are dark grey (4).

French
Gorfou doré.
Size
Length: 71 cm (2)
Average weight: 5.5 kg (3)
Top

Macaroni penguin biology

The macaroni penguin is mainly active during the day. Very little is known about this species outside of the breeding season; most studies have been carried out on breeding birds. The macaroni penguin feeds mainly on krill (shrimp-like crustaceans), although in some areas fish become an increasingly important food source as the breeding season progresses (5). It has been estimated that macaroni penguins alone consume four million tonnes of krill each year (6). In some populations, dives typically take the form of a V-shape, reaching depths of 48 metres (4), although in other populations, the dive profiles are more complex (5).

Macaroni penguins return to the breeding colonies each year in October and November, with males arriving before the females (4). Individuals often have to walk hundreds of metres over screes to reach their nest site (2). Macaroni penguins are monogamous and pair bonds are long-lasting. Each year the pair reunites at the same nest location, recognising each other by means of their calls (4). Pairs often perform a display known as the ‘ecstatic display’, in which their heads are swung from side to side (4). The nest is a simple scrape in the ground, typically lined with small rocks. In some cases, it may be built on a patch of grass and lined with grass shoots (4). Two eggs are laid; the second egg is always larger than the first and is usually the only successful egg per nest. If both eggs are lost, the pair is unable to produce a replacement brood (3).

The incubation of the eggs takes up to 37 days and is shared by the adults in three main shifts. The first shift lasts for 8 to 12 days and is shared by the male and female. The second shift (12 to 14 days) is carried out by the female, and the final shift (9 to 11 days) by the male. During each shift, the non-incubating penguin goes to forage at sea during the day (2) (4). The newly hatched macaroni penguin chicks are helpless, and for the first 23 to 25 days they are guarded and brooded by the male, while the female forages and feeds the chicks each day by regurgitating food (4). After this period, the chicks have developed their first plumage, which allows them to maintain their own temperature and so leave the nest. They cluster into small crèches for protection; at this stage, both adults are able to forage (3). Most chicks will have fledged by 60 to 70 days of age (4), at which point they have developed waterproof plumage (3). The macaroni penguin does not start to breed until five years of age in females and six in males (4).

After the chicks leave the breeding colonies, the adult macaroni penguins feed at sea for around three weeks before the annual moult. During the moult they are unable to forage, as the plumage is not watertight. After the 25 day moult the adults leave the colonies to spend the winter at sea (3).

In undisturbed macaroni penguin colonies, predation is relatively low. Eggs (mainly deserted ones) are predated upon by skuas, sheathbills, and kelp gulls, while weakened chicks, or those separated from the crèche, are taken by skuas and giant petrels. Whilst at sea, adult macaroni penguins are predated upon by leopard seals and Antarctic fur seals (4).

Top

Macaroni penguin range

The macaroni penguin has a circumpolar range (4). It breeds at 50 known sites on sub-Antarctic islands in the South Atlantic and southern Indian Oceans, with one breeding site on the Antarctic Peninsula (2) (4). The main breeding populations are located on the islands of Crozet, Heard, McDonald, Kerguelen and South Georgia (2). In 12 years, study populations on South Georgia have decreased by 65 percent and it is thought that the overall population on South Georgia has declined by 50 percent in the last 20 years (2). Most of the world population of the macaroni penguin has declined by at least 20 percent in the last 36 years (equivalent to three generations), but surveys are required to confirm the status of this species (2). The range of the macaroni penguin outside of the breeding season is unknown, although it is thought that it stays in Antarctic waters (4).

See this species on Google Earth.

Top

Macaroni penguin habitat

Breeding colonies of the macaroni penguin are situated on rocky slopes or level ground, usually in areas lacking vegetation, although some nests are located amongst tussock grass (4). Little is known of this species outside of the breeding season, but it is believed that it is pelagic, spending all of its time at sea (4).

Top

Macaroni penguin status

The macaroni penguin is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

Top

Macaroni penguin threats

Many penguin species of the Southern Oceans Ecosystem, including the macaroni penguin, share a common set of factors that are causing population reductions (2) (6). Introduced predators such as cats and rats are a great problem for breeding birds on a number of islands, including South Georgia. Over-fishing is a very serious factor, in particular the harvesting of krill, the main food source of the macaroni penguin. Further pressures include oil spills and increasing tourism, as well as potential climate change, particularly as penguins are extremely sensitive to changes in sea temperature and ocean currents and the consequent decrease in prey availability (6).

Top

Macaroni penguin conservation

Although numbers of macaroni penguins are high, the 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 (1). Long-term monitoring programmes are underway at a number of breeding colonies, and many of the islands that support breeding populations of this penguin are protected reserves (2). The islands of Heard and McDonald are World Heritage Sites (2). If the suite of threats facing the macaroni penguin continues unabated, it seems likely that the population declines will continue.

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

Find out more

For further information on the macaroni penguin and its conservation, 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

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.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs; that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Moult
Periodic shedding of (usually) the outermost body covering (such as feathers, fur or skin) during growth and development, or at specific times of the year.
Pelagic
Inhabiting the open oceans.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. BirdLife International (March, 2004)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3857&m=0
  3. International Penguin Conservation - Macaroni Penguin (March, 2004)
    http://www.penguins.cl/macaroni-penguins.htm
  4. Williams, T.D. (1995) Bird Families of the World – The Penguins. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Green, K., Williams, R. and Green, M.G. (1998) Foraging ecology and diving behaviour of macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus at Heard Island. Marine Ornithology, 26: 27-34.
  6. Boersma, P.D. and Stokes, D.L. (1995) Conservation: threats to penguin populations. In: Williams, T.D. (Ed.) Bird Families of the World – The Penguins. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
X
Close

Image credit

Macaroni penguin on glacier with one wing raised  
Macaroni penguin on glacier with one wing raised

© Andy Rouse / 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 - Macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) 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