Chinstrap Penguin

Chinstrap Penguin

Pygoscelis antarcticus
Population size
8 Mln
Life Span
15-20 yrs
32 km/h
3-6 kg
60-68 cm

The Chinstrap penguin is a medium sized penguin with the identifying thin black line on its white face, stretching across its cheeks. The boundary between black and white areas passes above the dark eye, isolated in the white colored plumage. The beak of the Chinstrap penguin is black. Unlike other penguin species, juveniles of this bird are very similar to their parents. Before the first molt, they are identified by dark colored markings around their eyes and relatively short beak, compared to adult individuals.


The species is distributed across Antarctic and southern part of Pacific Ocean, living along coastlines as well as on islands and icebergs.


Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

The Chinstrap penguins are highly social birds, gathering in large colonies, where they live and breed. These near-shore feeders forage in water among large pieces of floating ice or in the open sea. By the midnight and noon, they dive to catch fish and krill, remaining under the surface less than a minute. The flippers of these birds help them "fly" when swimming under the water. Coming out of the water, they use all four limps to climb up steep slopes. When on land, they often slide on their stomachs over the ice surface, using their flippers and feet to propel themselves. In addition, these penguins are able to make quite long jumps. These birds are non-migratory. However, during the winter months, from March to the beginning of May, they usually leave their colonies, moving north along the pack ice.

Diet and Nutrition

Chinstrap penguins are carnivores (piscivores). They have very simple diet, typically consisting of aquatic animals such as small fish and roaming marine crustaceans, including krill.

Mating Habits

37 days
7-9 weeks
chick, nestling
2 eggs

These penguins are normally monogamous. Every year, they come to the same breeding grounds, forming large colonies of up to 100,000 pairs. Usually, males return about 5 days before females in order to prepare the nest. They try to find the cavity in the rock, which served them as a nest during the previous breeding season. Finding the nesting site, the male rebuilds and fixes it, using rocks and bones. Mating season lasts from November to December. Typically, two eggs are laid and incubated for 37 days. Both the male and the female participate in incubating, taking turns in every six days. The hatchlings remain in the nest with their parents, until they reach the age of 1 month, joining a crèche of other chicks. Then, after around 7 - 9 weeks, when the young molt, attaining their adult plumage and, they are ready to go out to sea.


Population threats

The primary threat is global warming, leading to environmental changes, which negatively affect the population of these penguins. Another concern in commercial fishing, reducing the number of fish populations they consume, especially in the Southern Ocean region. In addition, the penguins are occasionally entangled and captured in fishing nets.

Population number

These penguins are fairly widespread throughout their range. The overall population of Chinstrap penguins is about 8 million birds, and is currently increasing. On the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Least Concern (LC).

Ecological niche

Feeding upon krill and fish, the Chinstrap penguins control numbers of these species populations.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • This penguin is sometimes called a "Stonebreaker Penguin", not because it uses collects stones when building the nest, but due to emitting a loud screech, which is so shrill that could even break stones.
  • This bird is one of the bravest and most aggressive penguin species in the world.
  • The Chinstrap penguins are able to dive at a depth of up to 70 m (230 ft), though usually dive no deeper than 45 m (148 ft).
  • These penguins tend to place their nests on elevated sites, which are usually the first to become snow-free, and where they could raise their chicks.
  • The Chinstrap penguins have no teeth, but they possess spines on their tongues and on the roof of their bill, which allow them to catch and hold wiggling fish.
  • Along with the food, penguins usually swallow pebbles and stones, which are thought to be beneficial for these birds. Thus, the stones can increase their weight, allowing them to dive deeper. Meanwhile, the swallowed stones may aid in grinding up and digesting the food.
  • Every day, they spend several hours preening or caring for their feathers, during which they spread the oil, coming from a special gland beside their tail feathers, all over their plumage. If penguins do not care for their plumage, it will lose its water repellency.


1. Chinstrap Penguin Wikipedia article -
2. Chistrap Penguin on The IUCN Red List -

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About