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What is a Gentoo Penguin?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are found in colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula and typically average 24 to 30 inches (about 61 to 76 centimeters) and tip the scales between 12 and 14 pounds (about 5.5 to 6.4 kilograms). In size, Gentoos rank only behind the emperor and king penguins. The Gentoo penguin has a life span of 15 to 20 years, and is known for its distinct orange and red bills and feet. The penguin also contains a white patch that extends from eye to eye on the top of its head.

An opportunistic feeder, a Gentoo penguin can make more than 400 dives in the sea in a day searching for food. The penguin stays close to the shore at depths between 66 and 328 feet (about 20 to 100 meters), but the bird is capable of swimming to depths of more than 650 feet (about 198 meters). While diving, Gentoos are able to lower their heart rate from 80 to 100 beats per minute to 20 beats per minute. In the water, the penguin can be spotted by its long, stiff feathers that stick out of the water. The bird’s diet consists of rock cod, lantern fish, krill, and even squid.

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The Gentoo penguin will make rounded nests out of stones, twigs, grass, feathers, and other vegetation. Nests are often built on rocky shores away from isolated areas. Gentoos often will compete against each other for nesting objects. It is common for the penguins to steal nest materials from each other or to fight over objects. Each year, the Gentoo move their colonies somewhere nearby and also build new nests annually.

Typically before the end of October, the female will lay her eggs. A female will lay two eggs, just a few days apart. Eggs weigh about 4.5 ounces (about 130 grams) and take a little over a month to hatch. Males and females take equal care in taking care of their chicks. Twelve weeks after birth, the penguins grow their adult feathers and leave the nest. At the age of two, a Gentoo penguin is able to breed

At sea, natural enemies of the Gentoo penguin include sea lions, orcas, and leopard seals. Sometimes sea lions will even come after the penguins on land. On land, adult Gentoo penguins have no natural enemies. However, skukas, gulls, and other birds are known to steal the eggs of the penguins and capture small chicks.

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