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Birds, Penguins, Seals, & Whales:  Facts, Descriptions, Characteristics
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Chinstrap Penguin

Pygoscelis antarctica

chinstrap penguin
Photo credit: Ecoscope

Quick Facts:

7 million pairs
Antarctic peninsula and southern islands
27 inches tall
9 pounds
Krill & fish
High, snow-free ground

Did you know?

Chinstrap penguin
  • For nesting, Chinstrap penguins often select lofty sites that are the first to become snow-free, to ensure the maximum amount of time to raise their chicks.
  • Chinstraps are regarded as one of the bolder and more pugnacious of the17 penguin species.
  • They can dive to a maximum of 230 feet; with most dives lasting for just half a minute.
  • Description & Characteristics:

    The Chinstrap penguin is the second most abundant Antarctic/subantarctic penguin, after the Macaroni. They are mainly concentrated in vast colonies along the coast of South Orkneys, South Shetlands and South Sandwich Islands. There are also small breeding colonies on the Balleny Islands, south of New Zealand.Although population changes have been detected among colonies on the Antarctic Peninsula, the overall Chinstraps population seems stable.

    Individuals of this species are recognized by the narrow band of black feathers which extends from ear to ear, just below the chin and the cheeks, hence the name. This distinctive, thin black line distinguishes Chinstraps from Adelies and Gentoos, the other two members of its genus. Chinstraps are also smaller than Gentoos

    The diet of the Chinstrap consists of: small shoaling animals, krill, small fish and other roaming marine crustaceans. They are considered near-shore feeders foraging among the pack ice, although vagrants may occasionally be seen in the open sea. They feed by pursuit-diving for prey close to their breeding colonies. Diving effort is usually concentrated near midnight and noon and dives typically last less than a minute and are seldom more than 200 feet deep. Like most penguins, Chinstraps using their flippers to 'fly' at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. On land, Chinstraps often 'toboggan' on their stomachs, propelling themselves by their feet and flippers. They climb out of the water and up steep slopes using all four limbs and they are able to jump large distances to reach footholds.

    Chinstrap penguins lay two eggs in November or December and the chicks fledge at about seven to eight weeks in late February and early March. Unlike other penguins species where the stronger chick is fed preferentially, Chinstrap parents treat both chicks equally. Scientists believe that extensive sea-ice persisting close to shore can restrict access to the sea for foraging adults and therefore impact chick survival.

    Although Chinstrap penguins are not considered to be migratory, they do leave their colonies and move north of the pack ice in March through to early May for the winter.

    The principal predator of adult Chinstraps is the Leopard seal, while the main predators of eggs and chicks are sheathbills and the Brown skua.

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