With flamboyant red-orange beaks, white-feather caps, and peach-colored feet, gentoo penguins stand out against their drab, rock-strewn Antarctic habitat. But, there are more amazing facts to find out about the Gentoo Penguin. Let’s begin.
10. Gentoo Penguins are the World’s Fastest Penguin
Like all penguins, Gentoos are awkward and slow on land. But they’re graceful athletes underwater and fast! In fact the world’s fastest.
They have streamlined bodies and strong, paddle-shaped flippers that propel them up to 22 miles per hour (36 kilometers per hour for my viewers outside of the US), faster than any other diving bird.
Interesting fact: Nobody is exactly sure why the word “Gentoo” was applied to this particular penguin.
The only other association with the word is in the 1630s when it was an Anglo-Indian term used to distinguish Indian Hindus from Indian Muslims. The Penguin use of the word may have come from the Portuguese word “gentio”, which refers to gentiles or people who are not Jewish.
9 Gentoo Appearance
The Gentoo Penguin is easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head from one eye to the other and bright orange-red beak that stands out against black and white feathers and often drab surroundings.
It has pale whitish-pink webbed feet and a fairly long tail – the most prominent tail of all the penguin species.
Gentoo penguins have a large geographic range and breed on many sub-Antarctic islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula.
They generally occupy their islands all year round. The largest populations of gentoo penguins are in the Falkland Islands (South Georgia), and on the Antarctic Peninsula.
8. Gentoo Penguin Mating Grounds
Gentoo penguins only breed in areas free of snow and ice and are partial to ice-free areas, including coastal plains, sheltered valleys, and cliffs. They gather in colonies of breeding pairs that can number from a few dozen to many thousands. They pile stones, grass, and sticks to create a circular nest. Like the Adelie and Chinstrap penguins, the Gentoo will also fight over stones for nesting.
7. Four Species, not One? Climate Change
According to an article published by the BBC in November 2020, some scientists are claiming that Gentoo Penguins are not one species, but four distinct species that look similar, but have easily distinguished DNA.
This would change the number of Penguin Species from 18 to 21, helping conservation efforts.
Penguins face a number of threats in the wild, including plastic pollution, over-fishing, and climate change. When it comes to climate change, Gentoos are faring relatively well compared to other penguin species, but scientists say some populations have not been monitored for decades.
6. Third Largest Species
The Gentoo penguin is the third-largest species of penguin in the world behind the King penguin and the Emperor penguin, with adult Gentoos reaching heights of up to 31 inches or 80cm in the southern parts of their habitat range. These birds can get up to 12 pounds or 5.4 kilos; about the same weight as a large female turkey. The gentoo penguins found further north, are on average, slightly heavier and taller than their southern counterparts.
5. Gentoos Eat Meat
Like all penguins, Gentoos are carnivores and survive on a diet of marine animals. Krill and small crustaceans make up the bulk of the Gentoo penguin’s diet along with larger animals including squid and various species of fish.
An adult gentoo penguin makes as many as 450 dives a day foraging for food or basically the same number of times per day you can find me hovering around the refrigerator throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
They dive up to 650 feet or 250 meters and can stay underwater for up to 7 minutes.
Although they prefer to stay close to shore, Gentoos have been spotted as far as 26 km (16 miles) out to sea.
4. Gentoo Mating
On average, the Gentoo penguin breeds once per year, forming pairs that usually remain faithful to one another for three mating seasons. They usually find new mating partners after that.
Cleanliness is key. If the previous year’s nesting area is covered with waste, gentoo penguins will locate the next year’s area somewhere else along the coastline.
The female Gentoo lays two eggs that weigh about 4 and a half ounces, which both parents incubate for just over a month. But, only one of the eggs will usually hatch.
These Penguins have a large variety in egg-laying times depending on where a particular gentoo penguin lives. In warmer areas, this can occur as early as June, but in colder areas, the laying period may be delayed until December.
The chicks stay in the nest for about a month. After which. they form nursery groups or ‘creches’, while their parents hunt for food. After about 3 months (usually in January) the chicks grow their adult feathers and are able to head out on their own in search of small marine animals to eat.
2. Gentoo Penguin Stew
Gentoo penguins are a favored menu item of the leopard seals, sea lions, and orcas that patrol the waters around their colonies. On land, adults have no natural predators other than humans, who harvest them for their oil and skin. Gentoo eggs and chicks, however, are vulnerable to birds of prey, like skuas and caracaras.
Today, the Gentoo is a near-threatened animal as it is easily affected by changes in the water, both pollution, and temperature. Gentoo populations in some areas decreased through human hunting. The gentoo penguin population stands at around 774,000 mature individuals, last assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN in 2018.
If you liked this video, here are a few more you’ll enjoy. Go ahead and smash that subscribe button for future videos. And as always catch ya next time.
*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).