Crested penguin

The crested penguin is one of the smallest representatives of penguins. Due to their golden tassels on the head, which seem to form eyebrows, they have a severe and strict appearance. Despite their small size, crested penguins are very lively, agile and bold birds.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Crested Penguin

Photo: Crested Penguin

The crested penguin belongs to the penguin family. The latest remains of medium-sized penguins are about 32 million years old. Despite the fact that most penguins are large, massive birds, their ancestors were much larger. For example, the largest representative of the remains ever found. Its weight was about 120 kg.

Video: Crested Penguin

The question of an intermediate link between large ancient penguins and small crested penguins remains open. Probably, once these birds were adapted for flight, like albatrosses and gulls, but the aquatic lifestyle turned out to be the most favorable for them. The connection between flying birds and flightless penguins has been lost

Birds from the penguin family have a number of features that are common to all of them:

  • they live in packs. Penguins nest in large groups and huddle together during cold periods to keep warm. Also, the collective way of life allows you to defend yourself from predators;
  • the body shape of penguins is like a bullet, it is streamlined. So these birds can develop high speeds underwater, like torpedoes or bullets;
  • penguins cannot fly. If chickens are capable of short-term flights, then the massive body of penguins with their small wings makes them incapable of even short flights;
  • penguins walk vertically. The peculiarity of the structure of their spine is that it has almost no bends.

Penguins differ minimally from each other: size, color and some details by which they can be recognized. As a rule, the color of penguins has a camouflage function – a black back and head and a light belly. Penguins have a long prehensile beak and a long esophagus.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a crested penguin looks like

Photo: What a crested penguin looks like

All subspecies of crested penguins are similar to each other. Their height ranges from 60 cm, weight is about 3 kg. These medium-sized birds have a distinctive feature – the feathers above their eyes are elongated, bright yellow, form a kind of eyebrows or tufts, for which the penguins got their name.

Interesting fact: Scientists have not established why the crested penguin needs yellow feathers above the eyes. So far, the only assumption is that they play some role in the mating games of this species.

Crested penguins are characterized by waterproof plumage, which provides thermoregulation: it warms the bird during cold weather, cools it during periods of heat . The beak of a penguin is long, thickened, and often has a reddish tint.

Crested penguins are a large species that includes several subspecies:

  • rocky crested penguin – stands out on the basis of the location of the paws, which are sort of pushed back to make it easier for the penguin to climb stones;
  • the northern crested penguin is the most endangered species. These are medium-sized birds with blacker plumage;
  • Victoria penguin. It is distinguished by characteristic white spots in the cheek area. In general, the white area of ​​the abdomen is more common than in other crested penguins;
  • big penguin. Not really the largest subspecies – it is based on the Snares Archipelago range – this is the smallest penguin range;
  • Schlegel's penguin. An unusual light subspecies of the crested penguin, which lacks golden tassels and has a very thick beak. They have a silver-gray back with white markings, white paws. Feathers on the head have a barely noticeable golden sheen;
  • big crested penguin. The largest of the crested penguins. It is characterized by large feathers in structure, which look like a kind of chain mail;
  • golden-haired penguin. In this subspecies, yellow tassels above the eyes are most clearly visible. The first of the discovered species of crested penguin.

These penguins have minimal differences from each other, scientists do not agree on a single classification of crested penguins.

Where does the crested penguin live?

Photo: Crested penguin bird

Photo: Crested penguin bird

The most common crested penguins received on the Subantarctic Islands, in Tasmania, on the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego and on the coast of the mainland of South America. The main part of the population is distributed at these points.

But individual subspecies of penguins live in the following places:

  • Antipodes Islands, New Zealand, Campbell, Auckland, Bounty Islands – nesting site for large crested penguins;
  • South Georgia Islands, South Shetland, Orkney, Sandy Islands – habitat for golden-haired penguin;
  • exclusively on the Snares archipelago lives a large penguin – it inhabits an area of ​​u200bu200bonly 3.3 square km;
  • thick-billed penguin can be found on the islands of Stuart and Solander near New Zealand;
  • Macquarie Island is the only habitat of the Schlegel penguin;
  • the northern subspecies lives on the islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island.

Crested penguins choose rocky terrain as habitats. All of them are to varying degrees adapted to walking on stones and rocks. Penguins try not to settle in the areas of the far north, as they do not tolerate winter and lack of food. Although penguins are clumsy due to their body constitution, crested penguins are quite mobile and agile. You can see how they jump from stone to stone and how fearlessly plunge into the water from high rocks.

They settle in large flocks and build nests right on the stones. It is important for them that even in the cold period one can find dry grass, branches and bushes on the island, which are used to build a nest, although in most nests they are built from smooth small pebbles. Otherwise, penguins of both sexes insulate nests with their own feathers.

Now you know where the crested penguin lives. Let's see what he eats.

What does the crested penguin eat?

Photo: Red Book Crested Penguin

Photo: Red Book Crested Penguin

Penguins feed on anything they can find in the sea that fits in their beak.


  • small fish – anchovies, sardines;
  • krill ;
  • crustaceans;
  • mollusks;
  • small cephalopods – octopuses, cuttlefish, squid.

Like king penguins, crested penguins are adapted to drink salt water. Excess salt is excreted through special glands located near the nose. Although, if there is access to fresh water, penguins will prefer to drink it. In the summer, crested penguins fatten up while on a long swim. During the winter, they lose a significant part of their weight; also lose weight during mating games. While feeding the chicks, the female is responsible for feeding the young.

Fun fact: The crested penguin prefers to bring whole fish or pieces of fish to the baby, rather than regurgitate overcooked fish into their mouth.

Crested penguins move gracefully underwater. They are able to develop very high speed in pursuit of prey. Like dolphins, crested penguins prefer to hunt in a flock, attacking a school of fish in a group, thereby disorienting them. Also, in a flock, a penguin is more likely to come out alive when confronted with a predator. Penguins are dangerous hunters. They swallow fish on the go and are able to eat even very large individuals. Also, due to their small size and dexterity, they are able to get crustaceans and octopuses out of gorges and other narrow places.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Pair of Crested Penguins

Photo: Pair of Crested Penguins

Crested penguins are not found alone, they are social birds. A flock of penguins can number more than 3 thousand individuals, which is a lot even by the standards of penguins. The habitat is chosen desert, consisting of stones and rare shrubs near the sea. Although sometimes they settle near fresh lakes and rivers – usually they are small flocks that have strayed from the general colony. Crested penguins love to make noise. They constantly scream, and it is hard not to hear their cry: it is sonorous, hoarse and very loud. This is how the penguins communicate with each other and communicate various information. At night, penguins are silent because they are afraid to attract predators.

Crested penguins can be called the most daring and aggressive type of penguin. Each pair of penguins has its own territorial area, which is jealously guarded. If another penguin enters their territory, then both the female and the male will zealously reclaim their rightful place. This attitude to the territory is associated with round small pebbles, which are used to build a nest. It is a kind of penguin currency. Crested penguins not only collect pebbles on the shore, but also steal them from other nests.

An interesting fact: When a male remains on the nest, and the female leaves to feed, other females come to this male and perform invocative actions for mating. During mating, the male briefly leaves the nest, and the female steals his pebbles for her nest.

Crested penguins are not limited only to threatening screams – they are able to strike with their beak and frontal part of the head, which can injure an opponent. In a similar way, they protect their young and partners even from predators. Crested penguins also have family friends, to whom they are friendly. They usually hunt in groups and do not steal stones from each other. Recognizing that penguins are on friendly terms is easy – when they meet, they shake their heads from side to side, greeting a friend. Crested penguins are curious. They willingly approach photographers and naturalists and can even attack people, although a little penguin cannot cause any injuries to a person.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Crested Penguin Family

Photo: Crested Penguin Family

The breeding season begins with fights in which males participate. Two penguins fight for a female, spreading their wings and hitting each other with their heads and beaks. All this is accompanied by a loud screech. The winning penguin sings a song of low bubbling sounds to the female, after which mating takes place. The nest is built by the male. Mostly it consists of pebbles without sharp corners, he also pulls branches and everything that he finds in the area there. Often you can find bottles, bags and other garbage there. In October, the female lays eggs (there are usually two of them, and one egg is larger than the second). During laying, the female does not eat, and the male brings her food.

In general, the male and female incubate the eggs alternately, and the incubation lasts about a month. The chicks that have appeared remain completely on the father. He provides them with warmth, and the female brings food and feeds herself. For the first month, the chicks stay with their father, and then they go to a kind of “nursery” — a place where penguin chicks congregate and are under adult supervision. There they spend time until they are fully mature. After the chicks are left in the care of the public, the birds actively accumulate fat. This allows them to prepare for the molt, which lasts a little less than a month. After changing their coat, adult birds go to sea and spend the winter there, preparing for the next mating season.

Interesting fact: Crested penguins sometimes form long-term pairs.

Penguins live for about 10 years, in captivity they can live up to 15.

Natural enemies of the crested penguin

Photo: Great Crested Penguin

Photo: Great Crested Penguin

Because of penguins have almost no natural enemies of their terrestrial way of life. Many crested penguins live on isolated islands where there is simply no one to attack them.

In the water, penguins are vulnerable to some predators:

  • leopard seals are formidable predators that quickly catch penguins in the water and can be dangerous on land;
  • southern fur seals can kill penguin crested seals, although fur seals mainly feed on fish;
  • sea lions;
  • killer whales have always preyed on all kinds of penguins;
  • some sharks are also found by penguins. They can circle around the islands where the penguins live. When a bird wants to eat, it goes out to sea, even if there is a predator nearby, because of which it instantly becomes its prey.

Crested penguin chicks are the most vulnerable. “Crèches” are not always supervised by adults, which is why they may be attacked by brown skuas and some species of gulls. They attack both the chicks themselves and the clutches of the penguins. Crested penguins are not defenseless birds. Although they are inferior in size to emperor and king penguins, crested ones are very zealous in protecting themselves and their offspring. They are able to attack a predator by spreading their wings and screaming loudly. A flock of such screaming penguins is very likely to scare the enemy, causing him to leave.

Population and species status

Photo: What it looks like crested penguin

Photo: What a crested penguin looks like

Along with the emperor, galapagos and king penguin, crested ones are also under the threat of extinction. The twentieth century was unfavorable for crested penguins, as people actively killed them for their fat and meat, and also ruined clutches with eggs. The reasons for the disappearance of crested penguins today are as follows — expansion of agricultural zones, which are located at the junction with the habitats of crested penguins.

As a result, harmful industrial emissions affecting life expectancy and ability to reproduce. The second reason — poachers. Until now, there is an opinion that penguin fat has healing properties. Climate change is also happening. Penguins are losing their habitats, which are flooded with new tides. The number of fish and shellfish, which are included in the daily diet of penguins, is also declining. Due to unstable nutrition and climate change, penguins begin to breed less frequently – one clutch every two years.

Environmental pollution also affects, especially plastic waste and oil products. And, of course, the mass capture of fish, which is included in the diet of crested penguins, also affects their numbers. Despite the fact that the total population of crested penguins has more than three and a half million pairs, many subspecies are endangered. The population is expected to decline by about 70 percent over the next 20 years.

Crested Penguin Conservation

Photo: Red Book Crested Penguin

Photo: Red Book Crested Penguin

Vulnerable subspecies include: rocky, thick-billed, large, Schlegel penguin, golden-haired. Endangered subspecies: northern, large crested. As can be seen, despite the huge population of crested penguins in general, it consists of endangered subspecies or subspecies that are above the threat of extinction. Among them was also the Chatham crested penguin, which became extinct in the early 19th century. The downward trend continues.

The main conservation methods are:

  • relocation of penguins to protected areas;
  • artificial feeding of wild penguins;
  • penguin breeding in captivity.

Fun fact: Hunting baleen whales has increased krill populations, which is beneficial to some penguin species, including crested penguins in the northern territories.

Crested penguins get along well in zoos, willingly breed there and form long-term pairs. So far, zoos are the most reliable means of preserving this species.

The crested penguin is bright and unusual. While they inhabit many territories on the planet, but now scientists are concerned about the decline in their numbers. The problem of preserving these lively and courageous birds remains open.

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