Eudyptes chrysolophusmacaroni penguin

Geographic Range

The macaroni penguin is found on the edge of Antarctica and Sub-Antarctic islands south of the Americas and Africa. Large populations of this penguin can also be found in Chile, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, South Shetland Islands, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, and McDonald Islands. (Stonehouse, 1975)


Macaroni penguins live in Antarctica in rocky, water-bound areas, on rocks and cliffs above the ocean. (Stonehouse, 1975)

  • Terrestrial Biomes
  • icecap

Physical Description

The Macaroni penguin is a medium-sized bird that stands about 71 centimeters tall and weighs between 5 to 6 kg. Females are usually smaller than males. Males and females are monomorphic. They have orange, yellow, and black crests that join on the top of the head. This penguin has a red bill, and the chin, face and under the throat have solid black feathers. (Stonehouse, 1975)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    5000 to 6000 g
    176.21 to 211.45 oz
  • Average wingspan
    71 cm
    27.95 in


Macaroni penguins usually breed in the sub-Atlantic. Adults arrive to breed late in October, laying their eggs in early November. Macaroni penguin nests are made from scrapes found in mud or gravel among rocks. Macaroni penguins may assemble by the millions in their massive rookeries and can be smelled as far as 5-6 miles offshore. Macaroni penguins are atypical in that the first egg of the breeding season is much smaller and less likely to develop than the second egg. Two eggs are laid with only one chick usually being reared. Incubation is shared by both parents in long shifts. Eggs hatch after 33 to 37 days. The male broods and guards the chicks for 23 to 25 days while the females bring food daily. Chicks then gather into small creches and are fed every 1 to 2 days until they are ready to leave and go to sea (60 to 70 days old). Macaroni penguins leave their breeding colony by April or May. (Ainley, et al., 1983; Stonehouse, 1975)

  • Breeding interval
    Macaroni penguins breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Adults arrive to breed late in October, laying their eggs in early November.
  • Average eggs per season
  • Range time to hatching
    33 to 37 days
  • Range time to independence
    60 to 70 days


Macaroni penguins live in large colonies of up to 2.5 million birds, mostly in breeding pairs. Macaroni colonies are found on rocky cliffs and hillsides. Unlike birds of flight, whose bones are hollow to allow for flying, penguins have solid bones to enable deeper dives. The weight of their bones also allows them to remain under water for long periods of time, they typically surface after two or three minutes to breathe. As they swim, macaroni penguins use their webbed feet to steer, with the help of their tails, which serve as a rudder. (Levick, 1914; Stonehouse, 1975)

Communication and Perception

Although very near-sighted on land, penguins have exceptional vision in the water. Their eyes, like the many sea animals, are attuned to the colors of the sea. This excellent vision is needed to avoid predation by leopard seals and killer whales, which are their primary predators in the ocean. On land their main predator is the skua (a large bird) which snatches penguin's chicks from nests. The penguin communicates by complex ritual behaviors such as head and flipper waving, calling, bowing, gesturing and preening. Courtship and mating rituals include so called "ecstatic displays" where a bird, typically an unattached male, pumps his chest several times with his head stretched upwards and with flippers stretched outwards, projects a harsh loud braying sound. This can result in a mass trumpeting by other males, which is believed to help synchronize the breeding cycle. (Levick, 1914; Stonehouse, 1975)

Food Habits

Macaroni penguins live almost entirely on krill (Euphasiidae) supplemented with up to five percent squid. They also eat some fish and amphipod crustaceans (Amphipoda). Recently it was discovered that some populations travel long distances to feed on populations of subantarctic krill and the crustacean, Parathemisto gauchidaudii, in the Indian ocean. Macaroni penguins fast for up to forty days during the breeding season. (Burham and Burham, 1996; Viegas, 2009)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats non-insect arthropods
  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • aquatic crustaceans


Primary predators of macaroni penguins in the water are killer whales (Orca orcinus) and leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx). In colonies, skuas (Stercorariidae) prey on macaroni penguin nestlings and other weak individuals. As are most penguins, macaroni penguins are counter-shaded in the water, making them difficult to see. They use their agile swimming abilities, vision, and association with other macaroni penguins to be vigilant to predators and avoid capture in the water. (Levick, 1914; Stonehouse, 1975)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Macaroni penguins live in large colonies and they represent a large potential food resource, but their economic importance is minor or insignificant to humans. Whalers and seal hunters of the nineteenth century visited some penguin colonies for meat and eggs, and there once was a penguin oil industry which took large numbers of birds but by the early 20th century, this was no longer profitable.

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • ecotourism
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of macaroni penguins on humans.

Conservation Status

Macaroni penguin population status is stable and increasing. They are among the most numerous penguin species in the world with a population of approximately 9 million. They are vulnerable to changes in the environment such as pollution, fishing, and global warming. Humans are the biggest threat to these penguins due to the overfishing of krill and other small invertebrates that they feed on. (Werderits, March 10, 1999)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Katie Reynolds (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



lives on Antarctica, the southernmost continent which sits astride the southern pole.


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


uses sight to communicate


"Macaroni Penguin!!! Eudyptes Chrysolophus" (On-line). Accessed January 23, 2001 at

"Penguin, General Features" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001 at

Ainley, D., R. LeResche, W. Sladen. 1983. Breeding Biology of the Adélie Penguin. London, England: University of California Press,Ltd..

Avena, M. "Macaroni Penguin(or, the One With the Funny Name)" (On-line). Accessed January 23, 2001 at

Burham, P., B. Burham. 1996. "Macaroni Penguin-Eudyptes Chrysolophus" (On-line). Accessed January 23, 2001 at

Levick, M. 1914. Antarctic Penguins, A Study of Their Social Habits. London: Willian Heinemann.

Stonehouse, B. 1975. The Biology of Penguins. London: The MacMillan Press LTD..

Stonehouse, B. "Macaroni, Eudyptes chrysolophus" (On-line). Accessed January 23, 2001 at

Viegas, J. 2009. "Penguins' Secret Ocean Food Stash Found" (On-line). Discovery News. Accessed May 12, 2009 at

Werderits, . March 10, 1999. "The Macaroni Penguin" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001 at