What Do Penguins Eat?

Summary: Penguins eat ahuru fish, anchovies, Antarctic krill, Antarctic silverfish, arrow squid, bald notothen, barracouta, blue cod, blue grenadier, cephalopods, codfish, crabs, crustaceans krill, cuttlefish, fish, flatfish, glacial squid, glacial squids, Graham’s gudgeon, greater hooked squids, hooked squid, ice krill, lanternfish, lobsters, marbled rockcod, mollusks, New Zealand blueback sprat fish, octopuses, opalfish, painted notie fish, pilchards, plankton, red cod, sardines, sevenstar flying squid, shrimps, slender sprat, small clupeoid fish, small shoaling fish, southern blue whiting fish, southern giant petrel, squat lobsters and squids.

Category: Birds.

Penguins eat fish (such as lanternfish, red cod, blue cod), cephalopods (such as octopuses, squids, cuttlefish) and crustaceans (such as krill, lobsters, shrimps, crabs).

Humboldt penguins eating fish. © Twycross Zoo.

Let’s learn more about a penguin’s diet

The penguin is a fascinating bird and the diet for a penguin will vary depending on the type of species that the penguin is. There are six genera of penguins. These include Aptenodytes (great penguins), Pygoscelis (brush-tailed penguins), Eudyptula (little penguins), Spheniscus (banded penguins), Megadyptes (yellow-eyed penguins) and Eudyptes (crested penguins). Each one will have a different diet according to its classification.

Little penguins: Eudyptula

Penguins in this genera includes the white-flippered penguin and the little blue penguin (the smallest of the penguin species). White-flippered penguins will eat small shoaling fish such as pilchards and anchovies, or cephalopods and less often on crustaceans. Little blue penguins feed on small clupeoid fish, cephalopods and crustaceans. They will eat arrow squid, slender sprat, Graham’s gudgeon, red cod and ahuru fish. They are also known to consume barracouta, anchovy and sardines. Little blue penguins are generally inshore feeders with 50% of their dives go no deeper than 2 meters.

Adélie penguin regurgitates krill for its chick. © Liam Quinn.

Great penguins: Aptenodytes

Two of the penguins in this genera are the emperor and king penguins. Emperor penguins, which is the tallest and heaviest of the penguin species, eat cephalopods, crustaceans and fish. Fish includes the Antarctic silverfish and the bald notothen. Cephalopods include the glacial squid and the hooked squid while crustaceans such as Antarctic krill are some of their favorites. They are also known to prey on birds such as the southern giant petrel. King penguins, which is the second largest of the penguin species, eat more fish and squids than krill or other crustaceans. 80% to 100% of their diet consists of fish, like the lanternfish, and squids like the hooked squid and sevenstar flying squid.

Crested penguins: Eudyptes

Penguins in this genera include royal, macaroni, erect crested, Fiordland, rockhopper and snares. This is a fairly large genera for the penguin family. Their diet consists of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods.

  1. Fiordland crested penguins eat arrow squids, krill and fish like red cod and blue grenadier.
  2. Snares crested penguins eat krill, small fish and cephalopods.
  3. Erect-crested penguins eat krill and squids.
  4. Rockhopper penguins feed on krill, squids, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, octopuses, lanternfish, mollusks, plankton, cuttlefish and other crustaceans.
  5. Royal penguins feed on krill, fish and small amount of squids.
  6. Macaroni penguins prey on Antarctic krill and fish such as the marbled rockcod, painted notie fish and the lanternfish.

An frican penguin eating a fish. © Mtsofan.

Banded penguins: Spheniscus

Many different species of penguin comprise this genera including African, Humboldt, Galapagos and Magellan. This group feeds on krill, cuttlefish, sardines, small crustaceans and squids. The African penguin adds pilchards and anchovies to their diet.

Yellow-eyed penguins: Megadyptes

The yellow-eyed penguin is the only member of this classification. Their diet consists mainly of demersal fish (90%) and the arrow squid. Examples of fish includes the blue cod, red cod, opalfish and the New Zealand blueback sprat fish.

Brush-tailed penguins: Pygoscelis

This group consists of the long-tailed gentoo, adelie and chinstrap penguins. Their diet consists of glacial squids, the greater hooked squids, Antarctic silverfish, Antarctic krill, ice krill, shrimps and squat lobsters. They also prey on fish like flatfish and codfish such as southern blue whiting fish. Depending on where they are, their diet can consist of 15% to 50% fish, depending on where they are located. The long-tailed gentoo penguin is an opportunistic feeder and will eat what ever food that is available.

More on seabirds

  1. Puffin’s diet
  2. Seagull’s diet

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