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What Is a Chinstrap Penguin?

Chinstrap penguins often live on icebergs.
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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2014
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The chinstrap penguin is known to have the largest population of any penguin species. These penguins generally make their home in the Antarctic and sub-antarctic region. They average about 27 inches (68 cm) in height and weigh about 12 pounds (5 kg). In terms of color, the birds are primarily black with a white underside, and they have a black line that goes under their cheek just like the chinstrap on a helmet. The young penguins look very similar to their parents in most ways, but they do have dark spots around their eyes.

When on land, the chinstrap penguin is not necessarily that fleet-footed, but in the water, they are known to be very fast swimmers. The birds can move up to 20 miles an hour (32.19 kph) when submerged, using their flippers in a way similar to how flying birds use their wings. On land, when they need to move more quickly, they will sometimes throw themselves forward and slide on their bellies. The chinstrap penguin can also jump relatively high when the need arises, and it has a high-pitched vocalization that is considered one of its more unique traits.

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The birds use their well-regarded swimming ability to aid in the hunt for food. They don't generally venture too far off shore when hunting, and they have relatively short dive times of about a minute or so. The chinstrap penguin mainly hunts for krill, fish, crustaceans, and other small sea creatures. While they are out looking for fish, chinstrap penguins have to watch for the leopard seal, which is the main predator that threatens the birds on a daily basis.

Scientists think the chinstrap penguin population may be as large as 13 million. They usually live in relatively large groups, and the colonies are often located on icebergs. The birds have a reputation for combative behavior, and they will often fight with each other or other animals that may approach, especially if they have chicks to protect.

Chinstrap penguins tend to lay their eggs in early winter. The typical clutch size is about two eggs, and both parents help with incubation. In most cases, the eggs can be expected to hatch after about 25 days. The chicks often stay in the nest for about a month, and they only leave when they have enough feathers to maintain their body heat in the harsh environment. They don't become totally independent until they're about 2-months-old.

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