Cool fact…
The Kerguelen Plateau is one of the largest submarine plateaus in the world, and stands directly in the path of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current - an easterly moving current of water that circles the Antarctic continent - and deflects part of those waters north towards the tropics.

Gentoo penguin

Moulting gentoo penguin
Moulting gentoo penguin (Photo: B Wienecke)

Vital statistics

Scientific name: Pygoscelis papua

Weight: 5–8 kg variable throughout the season and different between males and females

Height: ~75 cm

Breeding age: Can start at 2 years of age, but most birds start at 3–4 years

Breeding frequency: Annual

Breeding season: Late September to March

Age to fledging: About 100 days

Longevity: Not known but probably 20+ years

Name Derivation: Pygoscelis means “rump-legged” and “Papua” is the Malay name for New Guinea. There have never been any penguins in New Guinea though…

Foraging statistics

What do I eat? Crustaceans (e.g. krill) and fish

What eats me? Fur seals, leopard seals, skuas, giant petrels

Range trip time: A few hours to a few days

Range trip length: Usually less than 40 km but can be up to 100 km

Depth of water where foraging: About 200 m, the penguins though don’t dive that deep. Most dives go to 70–100 m.

Extreme dive depth/time: 166 m, a bit more than three minutes

Distribution and abundance

Distribution: Circumpolar, breeding colonies are located on most subantarctic islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Abundance: Approximately 300,000 pairs in 1993

Population Status: Not globally threatened, some populations appear to be decreasing.

General comments

Gentoo penguin colonies are rather mobile from year to year, with their locations shifting about significantly. When they decide to breed on flat ground, elephant seals can be a problem, so it is not unusual to see gentoo penguins breeding on the tops of small hills along the coastline. On many islands, gentoo penguins are present all year, including at Heard Island.

More information can be found on other Heard Island penguin species by following the links below.

This page was last modified on 28 February 2005.