The macaroni penguin is a crested penguin with orange feather plumes on its head. The upperparts and face are black, contrasting the white underparts. They have red eyes, orange bill and pink feet. According to the BBC, their average height is 2.3 feet tall and weight is 12 lbs. Scientists approximate there are 18 million macaroni penguins worldwide, the largest population of penguins.
Macaroni penguins live near the ocean on rocky crags and cliffs. They breed on beaches, among floating islands, and on rocky slopes. Their range extends from the Antarctic Peninsula to the sub-Antarctic.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, there are at least 50 known breeding sites throughout the southern Indian Oceans and the South Atlantic on sub-Antarctic islands. A single breeding site is known to exist on the Antarctic Peninsula. Macaroni penguins build nests that are shallow burrows and line them with grass. More is known about the macaroni penguin's breeding habitat than their whereabouts during non-breeding season. They make their home in the open ocean.
During non-breeding season macaroni penguins are less likely to be found near land and tend to migrate. Groups of macaroni penguins range all the way to the islands off New Zealand, Australia, Tristan da Cunha, southern Brazil and South Africa when they are foraging.
Macaroni penguins eat crustaceans, squid and small fish but their main food source is krill. They consume more sea life on a yearly basis than any other species of sea bird. They dive up from 15 to 70 meters deep when feeding and stay underwater for about two to three minutes. Some macaroni penguins have been observed to dive up to 100 meters deep.
Orca and sea lions are predators of Macaroni penguins. Skua gulls, gulls and various sea birds feed on macaroni penguin eggs and chicks.
Threats to Macaroni Penguins
Global warming is creating a rise in sea-surface temperatures, driving prey away from the coastal areas where macaroni penguins tend to breed. Other threats to their survival are oil pollution and fisheries. Their population has declined because of land mammal predation. Tourism is also creating a problem for macaroni penguins and threatening their natural habitat. Macaroni penguins are listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.