The Antarctic Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis Mitochondrial

Gentoo penguins building nest in sub Antarctica

A pair of Gentoo Penguins preparing their nest

The Gentoo penguin is a classic penguin of which many fictional penguin characters have been modeled from, including Tux the Linux mascot penguin.

They are easily identified by their yellow feet, orange bill and little white bonnet extending across the top of their head.

This pair of Gentoo penguins (see photo above) along with many others during the breeding season are preparing their nest on a tussock grass mound, a favourite location for the Gentoos on Sub-Antarctic islands and the Antarctic peninsula.

They have been preparing for this moment months in advance, and in most cases pairing up with a partner from a previous season. Each day they gather grass and twigs to lay on the nest site, they go out to sea for a feed of fish and crustaceans then return to the nest where they potter around fussing over the nest.

Watch the video clip of a Gentoo penguin strutting his stuff as he builds his nest

It’s quite a ritual to watch, and they go about it quite calmly and carefully, not getting bothered by huge Elephant seals that occasionally stomp all over their ground carelessly wiping out their carefully laid out nest site. They seem to accept their presence and move around the big slugs and stay out of their way. They do however hotly defend their nest from other penguins and will chase away any would be squatters.

Gentoos return to their colonial breeding grounds around September / November, their numbers are steadily increase in that time, even though they are a sedentary population and are present on the island all year round. Two eggs are the normal clutch but usually only one chick survives to fledge. Parents share an incubation period of 31 – 39 days.

The chicks are fed on undigested shrimps or small fish by regurgitation. They gather in the protection of cr̬ches at 4 Р5 weeks and fledge at 85 Р117 days, they are fed by their parents for a further period after fledging and hang around the moulting area together well into March.

This pair were photographed only metres away from the communications building at Macquarie island, where they and many others are building nests along a stretch of tussock grass near the beach. They are not bothered by the presence of humans, however we are very careful not to intrude and will go out of our way to avoid disturbing them.

(Penguin information from Tony Soper – Antarctica a guide to the wildlife)

© 2011, Haich. All rights reserved.

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