The gentoo penguin is a species of penguin also known
by the scientific name Pygoscelis papua. Two subspecies
of the gentoo penguin exist: Pygoscelis papua papua,
and Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii.
The gentoo penguin can be found on and around the Antarctic
Peninsula and several Antarctic islands. In particular,
it tends to inhabit plains on the coast, cliffs, and
sheltered valleys, and prefers regions without much
The third largest species of penguin, the gentoo penguin
typically measures between 20 and 35 inches in height,
with an average around 30 inches. The gentoo penguin's
weight varies throughout its life; an average gentoo
penguin can weigh up to 19 pounds for males and 18 pounds
for females prior to molting, and may drop as low as
11 pounds for males who are about to mate and 10 pounds
for females who are protecting their nests.
A defining characteristic of the gentoo penguin is
the white stripe that crosses its otherwise black head;
this feature as well as its orangey-red bill make the
gentoo easy to recognize. The gentoo penguin also has
white fronts and black backs and heads, as well as very
pale pink feet. Its tail is relatively long, making
it the most distinct of any species of penguin.
The average gentoo penguin's diet consists predominantly
of crustaceans, which are supplemented with fish; a
typical gentoo penguin's diet consists of only 15% fish.
The gentoo penguin, however, is an opportunistic eater,
and some gentoo penguins have been observed eating a
diet of approximately equal amounts of crustaceans,
fish, and squid due to availability.
The gentoo penguin is most comfortable in the water,
and spends most of the year in the ocean. On an average
day, an adult gentoo penguins spends the whole day hunting
underwater, typically remaining close to the shore.
The gentoo penguin can swim at speeds of up to 22 miles
per hour underwater, and can descend as deep as 655
feet and remain underwater for as long as seven minutes
at a time.
To breed, gentoo penguins venture to land in colonies.
The gentoo penguin prefers areas free of ice in which
to breed, and may breed either near the coast or quite
far inland. Gentoo mating pairs, which often form long-lasting
partnerships, construct circular nests from stones in
which the female ultimately deposits two eggs. Both
parents take turns incubating the eggs for a little
over a month, after which chicks hatch.
After hatching, chicks remain in the nest for 30 days,
during which time its parents take turns keeping the
chick warm, or brooding, and searching for food. Chicks
do not enter the ocean until they are about 80 to 100
days old. Before entering the water, chicks molt, developing
While the adult gentoo penguin has no natural predators
on land, it is threatened by orcas, leopard seals, and
sea lions in the water. Gentoo chicks and eggs are not
as fortunate, being subject to attack by birds of prey
such as the skua. Gentoo penguins also face a threat
from humans, who may hunt them for their skin and oil.