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    What Do Penguins Eat/Penguins are heterotrophic carnivores and eat cephalopods, plankton, small marine invertebrate. Penguin swallow the stones ,snow

     What Do Penguins Eat

    What Do Penguins Eat

    Penguins eat fish, squids, krill, crab, shrimps etc. There are different species of penguins that live in different parts of the world. Their food intake varies from different areas at different times of the year. They are carnivores and get their food from the seas and oceans, their diet depend on their range, bill size and shape, foraging behaviour.

    Penguins are a group of aquatic flightless birds. All the penguins do not live in cold countries. Out of 17 species, a few live in the Antarctica but outside of Antarctica, they live on rocky coastlines or desert regions. Every continent in the Southern Hemisphere is home to penguins. Penguins do not live in the South Pole or the Arctic. Several species live in the temperate zone. Only Galapagos penguin lives near equator. Large species of penguins are found in colder regions but the smaller species are generally found in temperate or tropical climates.

    Where do penguins live

    Penguins are heterotrophic carnivores. Penguins eat cephalopods, plankton, small marine invertebrates.

    African Penguins live in rocky coastline of South Africa and Namibia. They eat small fish like sardines, anchovies, squids. Each penguin consumes about one pound of fish a day.

    Adelie penguins eat small marine creatures like krill, small fish and squid. To search their food, they dive as deep as 575 feet or travel 185 miles in the sea or ocean.

    Adelie, chinstrap and Gentoo eat krill, silverfish and glacial squid. Little penguin and white- flippered penguin eat squid and fish. They dive up to 20 feet below the sea for food. Yellow-eyed penguins eat small fish and arrow squid. Some species of penguin also eat octopus and jellyfish.

    King penguin and emperor penguin eat fish, crustaceans and cephalopods and krill. Their diet is made up of 80% fish. Emperor penguins travel 102miles to 903 miles from their colony to search for food. King penguins travel up to 559 miles from their colony to search food.

    Krill are about 2 inches long shrimplike creature found in the oceans. Penguin likes to eat krill, fish like sardine, smelt, herring, silverfish, lantern fish, sprats, mullets, sardines cod, opal, anchovies, pilchards and other small fish.

    Squids are soft-bodied cephalopods. The creature has eight legs, two hearts and large brain. They become more plentiful in the summer months. Gentoo, emperor and rockhopper eat juvenile squid, small squid, arrow squid and greater hooked squid. Penguins like to eat shrimps, crab and sand hoppers.

    In summer, a penguin can eat around 2 pounds of food but in winter, it eats one third of it. Researchers from the National Institute of Polar Research in Tokyo observed that the penguins of Antarctica are very fast and can eat 244 krill and 33 small fish within 90 minutes.

    How Do the Penguins Hunt?

    What Do Penguins Eat

    Penguins cannot fly but they are good swimmer. They swim very fast in the water. When they swim, their wings act more like strong flippers. They spend most of their lives in water to collect food. They can hold their breath up to 2 to 3 minutes under water. Emperor penguin can stay up to 20 minutes under water. They live in groups, called “rookery” and they hunt in groups but yellow-eyed penguins prefer solitary hunting.

    Hunting factors vary by penguin species and depend on oceanic currents, weather patterns change with El Nino years and the other factors.

    Penguins catch the prey with their bills and swallow them whole. Their mouth and tongue are lined with spines that point back towards their throat, help to grip slippery prey and swallow them.

    To catch prey, penguins target surface of water or mid-level depths of water. Some penguin species such as king penguin, emperor, Gentoo, rockhopper etc. search their food in the sea floor in coastal water around their colonies. They try to catch the prey with least amount of effort. Little penguin of Australia sometime catches jellyfish.

    The penguin's digestive system functions like a human. Their digestive organs are oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, crop, gizzard, proventiculus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and the other important features are beak, salivary gland, liver and pancreas.

    Penguins do not drink water but when they eat their prey, the salt water enters their system. They have developed supraorbital gland just above their eyes that has water-filtering capability.  This gland removes salt from the water and allows the penguins to survive without access to fresh water. The salt from the saltwater is excreted through the penguin’s nasal passages. They also eat snow to get fresh water.

    Stone Swallowing

    It is discovered that 6 penguin species such as adelie penguin, African penguin, Gentoo penguin, magellanic penguin, emperor penguin and yellow-eyed penguin swallow the stones. Researchers think that ingested stones may provide ballast far deep diving or help to grind the food in their stomach. It also observed that king penguin were swallowing small stones, approximate 10mm to 30mm in diameter. They were holding the stones with their bills and were throwing back their head and allowing the stones to pass into their throat. The researchers saw that a single penguin was swallowing up to 24 stones per minute. 10 pound of stones has been found in the stomach of an emperor penguin.

    How Do Penguins Feed Their Chicks?

    What Do Penguins Eat

    The baby or chicks of the penguin depend on their parents for food. The male penguins protect the babies on land and the female penguins spend much time by eating. They feed their chicks by three ways-

    ·       Regurgitating the food

    ·       Refrigerating the food

    ·       Penguin “Milk”


     Penguins have two-chambered stomachs but the food stores in the first chamber, the proventriculus. Penguins partially digested the food which can take a few hours. After that they regurgitate the food into their bills and the chicks eat from their beak. The parent penguins use their beak as a kind of spoon to feed the chicks.


    Penguins swallow the prey whole and store it inside their stomach where the enzymes and penguin’s body temperature prevent the food from digesting. In this way penguins keep the food for several days.

    Penguin Milk

    Male emperor penguins take care of the chicks for several weeks. Only male emperor penguins produce a secretion which is called “crop milk into a pouch in their throats, called “crop". The penguins feed this milk to their chicks for first 10 days after their birth. Then the chicks start to eat the small fish.

    This crop milk is not like the milk of mammals. The crop milk is fatty and enrich with high protein, IgA antibodies and some bacteria that helps to develop the chicks.

    The fasting period of male emperor penguins is up to 4 months. They spend this time without eating as they breed and incubate eggs. During breeding, king penguin and emperor penguin fast for up to one month and the chicks also fast due to shortage of food. The fasting period of chicks is up to 5 months which temporarily stops their growth.


    Penguin is a well-known bird around the world but they are threatened, endangered or vulnerable and many species have already gone extinct.

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