Strap in, folks! It’s Flightless Friday.
The Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) can be found in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions, with most of the population living in the southern Atlantic Ocean. They get their name from the thin black strip that runs under their bills, which easily distinguishes them from the other penguin species that overlap their range. Other names for the Chinstrap Penguin include bearded penguins, ringed penguins and stonecracker penguins (because of their extremely loud vocalizations).
Adult Chinstrap Penguins have the black and white plumage that is common among penguins. The inner parts of their flippers are white, and white runs along the edges of their flippers. They can grow up to 27 inches (68 cm) in height, and their weight depends on the season - they can weigh as little as 6.6 pounds (3 kg) during the breeding season, and can weigh as much as 13.2 pounds (6 kg) at other times of the year, when they are more free to forage. Males are, on average, slightly larger than females.
The diet of Chinstrap Penguins consists largely of krill, fish, shrimp and squid. They can travel up to 50 miles (80 km) offshore to forage, employing pursuit diving to catch their prey. In order to stay warm in near-freezing water, they rely on a thick layer of blubber and a layer of insulating air trapped under their tightly-sealed feathers. They will gather on large icebergs during the winter, but they need clear land to breed and nest.
The breeding colonies of Chinstrap Penguins are enormous, easily exceeding 100,000 individuals in some parts of their range. During the breeding season, breeding pairs make their way back to the same nest site, constructing nests out of stones. Breeding pairs are closely bonded, sharing incubation duty after the female lays a clutch of two eggs. After about 35 days, the eggs hatch, and the parents feed both chicks equally, not just the chick that appears to be the most healthy. The chicks stay in the nest area for the first month of their life before being gathered into a créche. When they fledge after another month, they are ready to start swimming.
Because of their healthy population, Chinstrap Penguins are considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN. They are themselves preyed upon by Leopard Seals, but the over-hunting of krill-eating whales and pinnipeds has allowed a surplus of this food source, and the Chinstrap Penguin population expanded to take advantage of it. The subjects of the children’s book And Tango Makes Three, Silo and Roy, are Chinstrap Penguins.
Source for all images used in this post.