Gentoo penguins breed in Antarctica and on many sub-Antarctic islands, including Kerguelen, South Georgia, Heard and MacDonald Islands, the South Shetlands and the Falkland Islands.
How to recognize it?
The gento penguin’s jet-black head has a hood of white feathers over its eyes. Its beak, which is black above and yellow-orange on the sides, is suitable for hunting fish and crustaceans. Its legs are short and placed at the very back of the body, and its webbed feet serve as rudders when swimming. Like all penguins, it is a flightless species: its wings serve as fins. Males and females are similar, but the female is slightly smaller.
The gento penguin is a large penguin, clumsy on land but agile and powerful at sea. It is the fastest of all penguins: it can reach speeds of 35 km/h underwater!
A life full of dangers
On land, the gentoo penguin has no natural predators, but in the water, despite its speed, it is often overtaken by leopard seals, sea lions and killer whales. Also during the breeding season, its eggs are often stolen by birds of prey such as caracaras and jjoebirds.
Gentoo penguins reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 years. The mating season begins in the spring, when the birds gather in small colonies to build their rock nests. They are loyal companions, often mating with the same partner each year.
Competition for the best sites is fierce and the best places to nest are guarded. Males and females work together to build a circular nest with stones, leaves, twigs and fallen feathers.
The females then lay their eggs in pairs, after which both parents incubate them at a temperature of 30 to 36°C. During the first month after hatching, the parents share the tasks of caring for their young: when one stays at the nest to guard the young, the other hunts in the coastal waters.
When the young are old enough, they leave the nest and travel a short distance to join other young and form groups. They lose their insulating down and replace it with adult feathers. At about 70 days old, gentoo penguins begin to go to sea. Unlike other penguins, they do not leave the colony immediately, and their parents continue to feed them for a week while they learn to swim.
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