population: 5 million breeding
Breeding Season: December - March
Distribution: Sub Antarctic and
Antarctic islands, Antarctic Peninsula.
|Height: 68cm - 27 inches
Weight: 4.5kg - 10lb
Chinstrap penguins because of their characteristic band
of dark feathers under the chin that appears to be keeping
their dark hats on, these are the smallest of three species
of Pygoscelis penguins.
about 4.5kg and 68cm tall. According to the books they are
particularly noisy and aggressive, infiltrating and taking
over Adélie colonies, though from what I saw of them
I would put them behind Adélies in aggression and volume.
was taken in a chinstrap colony during a spring snow-fall,
most of the penguins had eggs and many had chicks so the
adults on the nests had to play the parental role to the
full protecting the young from the cold by laying down,
and occasionally getting up to shake off the accumulated
snowing shortly after this and the temperature being just
above freezing, the snow melted fairly quickly and so posed
little or no danger to the young on this occasion.
the snow had finished the penguins stood up and shook themselves,
the chicks that had been sheltering under the parents were
well and seem to be resenting the fact that mum or dad had
stood up and weren't keeping them quite so snug any
is awaiting the return of its partner who will have been
out at sea fishing for the krill that these penguins feed
almost exclusively on, catching it further inshore
than other penguin species. The parent that goes fishing
fills themselves up on food and then collects extra in their
stomach to bring back and regurgitate for the chicks.
along with many other species of penguins return to the
same colony each year and often settle within a very short
distance of the same nest site.
The nest is a very simple
affair of a pile of small stones, the main purpose being
to separate it from other nests and to raise it above the
surrounding ground so that melt-water from snow doesn't
wet the eggs or chicks.
Small stones are in short
supply in the penguin colonies and so squabbles are commonplace
and frequent, particularly as penguins are experienced kleptomaniacs
taking nesting material from any other nest that is inadequately
These two chinstrap chicks
are blissfully unaware of the dramas that await them in
the not too distant future.
patiently for their next meal. Chinstrap chicks get fed
about once a day on average, with the returning parent bringing
back about 300g of krill.
Fishing trips take the adults
around 20-30 kilometres from the colony, though distances
of well over 200 kilometres have been recorded. The young
remain on the nest, looked after in turns by each parent
until they are large enough to maintain their own body temperature
and can wander around freely.
At this point they form
a "crèche" with other chinstrap penguin chicks,
huddling together for protection against the worst of the
weather and predators. It also leaves both parents free
to go fishing so increasing the food supply for the rapidly
species are prone to producing occasional individuals like
this, known as "leuchistic" forms or sometimes
as "blonde" penguins.
Not albinos as they do have
pigment, but not as much as the more normal members of the
species. These penguins would always hang around the breeding
grounds with others of their species, though I never saw
one that had any success in breeding - incubating eggs,
building a nest etc. Maybe they were just a little too different
for the other penguins.
was looking through your penguin pics and noticed your
comment about leuchistic penguins not breeding. So I
thought you might be interested in the attached pic
(right) of a leuchistic Adelie penguin with a chick. I
took the pic in 1963 on Avian Island (off Adelaide
Island). Mike Fleet
While I saw several leuchistic
chinstraps on Signy I don't recall having seen a
leuchistic Adelie, maybe the result of different gene
pools. Paul Ward