Penguins 101: Macaroni Penguins for Kids 10 Fun Facts – Animal Facts
Macaroni Penguins have it…and they flaunt it. They are blessed with several flashy features that make them stand out amongst other species of penguins. These features include a bright yellow-orange crest that resembles a pair of bushy eyebrows, red eyes, a thick dark orange beak with a fleshy patch of pink skin on each side and large pink feet. But don’t let their good looks fool you when it comes to defending their territory, Macaroni males are very aggressive and won’t shy away from a fight. Hi, welcome to Animal Facts. Today, we discuss the crested creature that looks like a lover but is really a fighter, the Macaroni Penguin. Let’s get ready to rumble! Wait, before we get started, take a moment to subscribe to get more fun fauna facts, and click the bell icon to make sure you don’t miss a single fact.
10. The habitat of the macaroni penguin ranges from the Subantarctic Peninsula including southern Chile, the South Orkney Islands, South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia and the Falklands, to the Antarctic Peninsula, including mainland Antarctica, South Shetland, Heard, McDonald, Crozet, Prince Edward, Marion, Bouve and Kerguelen. When it’s time to forage for food, they prefer to “eat out” traveling north to the islands near Australia, southern Brazil, New Zealand and South Africa.
9. The macaroni population is estimated to be about 18 million, the largest of any species of penguin. That said, the population is believed to have decreased by at least 30 percent in the last 30 years. This decline has resulted in the species being classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s List of Threatened Species. Some factors that are thought to contribute to the decrease include interaction with fisheries, marine pollution and reductions in their food supply caused by climate change and commercial fishing. Conservation efforts have been implemented in several breeding colonies and many of the islands that are home to breeding populations have been classified as protected reserves.
8. Who says there aren’t any good men out there? Not female macaroni penguins! There are more males than females, and the excess of males enables the females to begin breeding at an earlier age, and gives them the luxury of choosing a “more experienced” mate. Females typically begin to breed at five years old, while males tend to reach maturity at six years of age. The male performs an elaborate courtship dance that begins with a bow and throbbing noises. Next, it raises its head and stretches its neck and beak up until they are fully extended. Finally, it brays loudly and moves its head from side to side. Macaroni penguin pairs prove to be very faithful. About 75% of them will breed together the next year, a statistic that puts marriages amongst humans to shame. Mating season begins in October and ends in November when it is time to lay eggs. After breeding season, they scatter into the oceans for the next six months.
7. Normally, a macaroni mom will lay two eggs, the first of which is very small and highly unlikely to survive. The incubation period is five weeks, split into three 12 day sessions. During the first session, both parents share sitting duties. In the second, the male then returns to sea for food, and the female tends the egg alone. Then in the third, the male returns and the female ships out and doesn’t come back until the chick is hatched. When it comes to chick rearing, the male macaroni is a stay-at-home dad, caring for its offspring for about 25 days after hatching. The chick depends on its father for warmth and protection, while the female gathers food for it. Once the adult male has fulfilled his fatherly duties, the chick becomes part of a crèche, which is a colony made up of chicks grouped together to stay warm and protected. At about 60 days old, the chick gets its adult feathers and is ready to navigate the sea on its own.
6. Currently, the home of a largest breeding population of macaronis are the Crozet Islands which are home base to approximately 2.2 million amorous penguin couples, followed by Kerguelen with 1.8 million pairs, Heard and South Georgia Islands with 1 million pairs each and Marion Island with 290,000 pairs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Patagonian shelf region hosts about 25,000 couples and the Falkland Islands population is comprised of about 500 couples. The remainder of the macaroni populace is divided amongst at least 12 colonies in Chile, the largest being Diego Ramirez with an estimated 15,600 pairs. Man, that’s a LOT of lovebirds!
5. The species name of the macaroni penguin is Eudyptes Chrysolophus which is a combination of the genus name made up of the Ancient Greek words eu “good,” and dyptes “diver” and the specific epithet chrysolophus made up of the words chryse “golden,” and lophos “crest.” But I’ll bet you’re wondering where it got its common name of macaroni? Well, it was coined in the early 19th century by English sailors who likened the penguin’s bright yellow-orange crest to the 18th-century fashion trend called maccaronism. Maccaronists were men who dressed flamboyantly and adorned themselves with tall wigs, jewelry and other accessories. If you’ve ever sung “Yankee Doodle” you have paid homage to the maccaronist in all his glory!
4. Since they live in colonies, macaroni penguins display a wide variety of social behaviors which peak during the breeding season and drop sharply when the males go back to sea. To protect their territory Macaroni penguins “go medieval.” They engage in “bill jousting,” locking their bills and wrestling until one of them overtakes the other. They also use their flippers to strike each other and peck the nape of their opponent’s neck. The “slender walk” is a submissive behavior in which the bird flattens its feathers, places its flippers in front of itself and hunches its head and neck while moving through the colony. The penguins also assume this posture when incubating or tending the nest.
3. Everyone knows that penguins are the snappiest dressers in the animal kingdom. The macaroni penguin keeps its black and white coat fresh by molting once a year. Molting is a four-week process by which new feathers push older feathers out resulting in a healthy, shiny coat. During molting, penguins avoid the water, so instead of foraging the sea for food, they live off fat stores in their bodies. To keep the feathers protected from the elements, the birds must “get oiled up” or preen. Preening is a process by which they use their bills to get oil from a gland adjacent to the tail. They then spread the oil all over their bodies, conditioning and insulating them from the salty water and frigid climate.
2. Macaroni penguins eat more marine life than any other seabird, with a diet mainly consisting of small fish and crustaceans like krill, shrimp, and crabs. They also consume a large number of cephalopods such as squid, octopi, and cuttlefish. It is estimated that they devour 9.2 million tons of krill per year and average 4 to 16 krill or 40 to 50 small crustaceans per catch. When they have chicks to feed, they forage all day, every day. As the chicks mature, overnight trips become more frequent. During the winter migration, macaronis dive deeper, more efficiently, and for longer stretches of time than in the summer breeding season. These foraging expeditions primarily occur during daylight hours, making winter dives more difficult due to shorter days. The penguins sometimes make night dives, but these dives are peak at much shallower depths.
1. Scientists have found DNA evidence suggesting that the macaroni penguin is closely related to the royal penguin. It is believed to have branched off from the royal, forming a new species about 1.5 million years ago. Though they are widely considered to be separate species, some ornithologists consider the royal to be a subspecies of the macaroni based on the similarities in their DNA sequences. The two species are nearly spitting images of each other, except the royal penguin has a white face and the macaroni has a black one. Macaroni penguins have also been known to interbreed with a subspecies called the southern rockhopper. In 1987, an Australian Antarctic Research Expedition discovered three hybrids on Heard and Marion Islands.
Well, there ya have it, 10 not so cheesy facts about the Macaroni Penguin. Did we miss any facts? What is your favorite animal? Let us know in the comments below. Also, please click that like button and subscribe for more fun fauna facts. If you’d like to help us keep the facts coming, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon. And as always, catch ya next time.