Despite its name, this penguin is not fully of cheesy goodness.

The Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) is one of the most well-known crested penguins, and is actually named for a particular fashion style rather than a pasta dish. “Macaroni” or “Maccaroni” were terms used during the 18th century in Europe to describe men who took outlandish fashion to the extreme, and was often associated with androgyny or effeminate affectations. It’s also what the song “Yankee Doodle” refers to when the subject of the song “sticks a feather in his cap and calls it Macaroni.” These penguins were called Macaroni because of their distinctive yellow crests and other colorful features. They can be found primarily in the sub-Antarctic islands, and one breeding colony situated on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Adult Macaroni Penguins stand approximately 28 inches (70 cm) tall, and can weigh up to 14 pounds (6.4 kg) depending on sex and the time of year. They have dark red eyes and big, red-orange bills. Males tend to have larger bills than females, and this is often a tactic used by researchers to do a preliminary assessment of a penguin’s sex. They have the vivid black and white coloring of most penguins, and depend on their well-oiled feathers to protect them while in the water. Once a year, they go through a complete moulting process that lasts for about a month, during which they cannot enter the water to forage for food.

The diet of Macaroni Penguins consists mostly of crustaceans, lanternfish, rockcod, painted notie, krill, and squid. They forage mostly during the day, and occasionally their foraging trips will last several days, such as before their yearly moults and when their chicks have grown up a little. Macaroni Penguins will typically forage between the surface and 230 feet (70 meters), and they can venture up to 31 miles (50 km) offshore in search of food.

Macaroni Penguins begin to return to the breeding colonies during October and November, where first-time breeders find their mates, and experienced breeders reunite with their established mates. Mated pairs always nest in exactly the same place, some of which are miles away from shore. Nests are uncomplicated divots in the ground, sometimes lined with rocks or grass. The female usually lays two eggs, the second of which is always larger and more likely to be viable. After an incubation period of approximately 37 days, the chicks hatch and are cared for by both parents until they are about 25 days old. At that point they are old enough to form crèches with the other chicks. The chicks are fully fledged at 70 days.

Macaroni Penguins are preyed upon by the local fur seals and leopard seals, as well as killer whales and skua. On land, they are vulnerable to species like rats, cats and dogs. They are currently considered to be a vulnerable species by the IUCN, due to the negative effects of oil spills, overfishing and climate change is having on their populations.

Source for all images used in this post.