Macaroni and Cheese Penguins

After another blogging break, I’m back again! I’ve been running around chasing after American Kestrels for my master’s research project. I love how the kestrels always stay still so I can video them and record their behavior. Sometimes I’ll drive up to a nest box and the female will just pop out of the box and perch in clear view. The males always come back from their hunting trips when I visit their territory. One of the males (named Loch because he lives by a lake) offers me pieces of mice from time to time. His mate Ness (see what I did there?) will even feed on fruit loops from my hand. Anyway, kestrels are fairly active birds and the females are starting to lay eggs, so I’ve got a lot of work to do to keep up. There will be a few posts soon on my birding adventures and on what my kestrels are doing. For now, I have to talk more about penguins.

The Macaroni Penguin has a reddish-brown bill and lives on islands in the regions just north of Antarctica. Macaroni Penguins are named for the the yellow crest of feathers on their head that British explorers related to Macaronis – young men with wild fashion tastes that would often place feathers in their hats. Macaroni Penguins grow to about 20 feet tall and weigh close to 18,000 pounds! Or maybe those are the dimensions for a T-Rex . . . okay, macaronis are actually about 2 feet tall and weigh around 10 pounds. Like many penguins, they primarily feed on krill, small fish, and giant squid.

Macaroni penguin on glacier with one wing raised

These penguins are very polite and often wave to explorers.

Macaroni Penguins are especially prevalent on South Georgia Island, which is around 2,000 km east of the southern tip of South American. Millions of pairs congregate and breed on this island. A male and female will usually pair for life. Nests are built out of pebbles and stones.

Macaroni penguin carrying stone for nest building

The female almost always lays 2 eggs but usually only one chick will be raised. What happens to the other chick? The parents sell it to a zoo for fish of course. Actually, only one chick is usually able to survive and receive enough food to grow. The reason 2 eggs are laid is probably so that if a predator eats one of the eggs or chicks, the parents will still have a chick to raise. In other words, the smaller egg will act as insurance in case something happens to the other egg. The main threats are large seabirds such as skuas and petrels, while the adults have to fear larger predators such as leopard seals. Of course, there is always the possibility that a predator will just eat both chicks.

Macaroni penguin feeding chick

Feed me!

Three orcas spyhopping

Where are the penguins? I heard they taste good with cheese.


Macaroni penguins skiing across glacier

Macaroni Penguins are expert skiers and would probably love Colorado in the winter.

Macaroni Penguins spend much of their time foraging and swimming in the ocean. Between their swimming and skiing capabilities, they could probably do well in a triathlon; provided the third activity wasn’t running. Penguins are pretty cool birds and they always seem dressed for success.  Well, I have to prepare for a birding trip tomorrow morning, then another birding expedition on Sunday, followed by more research on kestrels next week. By the way, did you hear who won the recent waterbird fashion show? Victorious Egrets. You’re welcome! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hankering for some macaroni and cheese.


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