The chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) is a species of penguin which inhabits a variety of islands and shores in the Southern Pacific and the Antarctic Ocean. Its name derives from the narrow black band under its head which makes it appear as if it were wearing a black helmet, making it one of the most easily identified types of penguin. Other common names are “ringed penguin”, “bearded penguin”, and “stonecracker penguin” due to its loud, harsh call.
Chinstrap penguins have an average body length of 72 cm (28 in) and a weight of 3-5 kg (6.6-11.0 lb), but their weight can drop as low as 3 kg (6.6 lb) depending on the breeding cycle. Males are both larger and heavier than females.
The adult chinstraps’ flippers are black with a white edge; the inner sides of the flippers are white. The face is white extending behind the eyes, which are reddish brown; the chin and throat are white, as well, while the short bill is black. The strong legs and the webbed feet are pink. Its short, stumpy legs give it a distinct waddle when it walks. The chinstrap penguin’s black back and white underside provide camouflage in the form of counter-illumination when viewed from above or below, helping to avoid detection by its predators.
Distribution and habitat
Chinstrap penguins have a circumpolar distribution. They breed in Antarctica, Argentina, Bouvet Island, Chile, the Falkland Islands, the French Southern Territories, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Vagrant individuals have been found in New Zealand, the islands of Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha, and South Africa. Global population is estimated at least 8 million.
Ecology and Behavior
The diet of the chinstrap penguin consists of fish, krill, shrimp, and squid which they swim up to 80 km (50 mi) offshore each day to obtain. The chinstrap penguin’s tightly packed feathers provide a waterproof coat, enabling it to swim in freezing waters. Additionally, thick blubber deposits and intricate blood vessels in the flippers and legs assist in the preservation of heat.
On land they build circular nests from stones, and lay two eggs, which are incubated by both the male and the female for shifts of around 6 days each. The chicks hatch after around 37 days, and have fluffy gray backs and white fronts. The chicks stay in the nest for 20-30 days before they go to join other chicks in a creche. At around 50-60 days old, they moult, gaining their adult feathers and go to sea.
Predators of adult chinstraps include the leopard seal and killer whale. Eggs and chicks fall prey to other seabirds, such as the giant petrel, the sheathbill and the brown skua.