Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica)


Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family:    Spheniscidae
Size:    Height: 24 to 36 inches (61 to 91 cm) 
Weight: 8 to 11 pounds (3.5 to 5 kg)
Diet: Krill, other crustaceans and small fish
Distribution: Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic
Young:  2 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Leopard seal, killer whale
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Average 15 to 20 years in the wild



·      Chinstraps are also known as “stone cracker” penguins because of their high-pitched voices.

·      Other names for the chinstrap penguin are “ringed penguin” and “bearded penguin.”

·      The chinstrap penguin has been featured on eight postage stamps worldwide.

·      Chinstraps can leap three feet out of the water to land on an ice floe.



Chinstrap penguins are named for the thin black strip that goes from one ear to the other, along the chin. They are easily distinguished from other penguins due to this marking. They have a black head and back, white undersides and pink feet. 



Chinstrap penguins can be found in the sub-Antarctic and the Antarctic Peninsula, swimming in the water or resting on icebergs. They breed on coastal islands such as the South Shetland, South Orkney and the South Sandwich Islands. 


Feeding Habits

Chinstrap penguins live in cold climates and catch fish by diving into the icy water. Although krill (small shrimp-like animals) make up most of their diets, these penguins will also eat other crustaceans and small fish at times.



Breeding takes place from late October to February. Couples build circular stone nests on icebergs, within large colonies that include other chinstraps, but also Adélie and gentoo penguins. Parents take turns sitting on the eggs—they switch places every five to 10 days. In a little over a month, the eggs hatch. The chicks grow quickly, and are covered by a soft, gray down. They huddle against their parents for warmth and protection. Unlike some other penguin species in which the strongest chick is favoured, chinstrap parents treat both chicks equally. When they are 20 to 30 days old, the young form groups with other penguins their own age. By the time they reach two months, their waterproof feathers have grown in and the chicks are old enough to be self-sufficient.



Chinstraps are extremely social and live in large communities of thousands of birds. They communicate by waving their flippers, bowing their heads, staring, pointing and calling. While on land, they travel by waddling on their large feet and short legs, but to travel faster across snow, they sometimes toboggan or slide across a distance on their stomachs, using their feet to propel them forward. When approached by strangers while in their breeding territories, chinstraps become extremely aggressive.



The chinstrap population on the South Sandwich Islands alone is reported to contain over 10,000,000 penguins. Chinstrap numbers seem to be increasing—the only penguin with a larger population is the macaroni penguin. All penguin species are legally protected from hunting and egg collecting.



Chinstrap Penguin Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US