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The Gentoo Penguin

The Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head. Chicks have grey backs with white fronts. Adult Gentoos reach a height of 75 to 90 cm. They are the fastest underwater swimming penguins, reaching speeds of 36 km/h.

Two sub-species of this penguin are recognized: Pygoscelis papua papua and the smaller Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii.

Males have their maximum weight of about 8 kg just before moulting and their minimum weight of about 5.5 kg just before mating. For females the maximum weight is 7.5 kg just before moulting but their weight drops to below 5 kg when guarding the chicks in the nest.

Gentoo Penguin Breeding
Gentoos breed on many sub-Antarctic islands. The main colonies are on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands; smaller populations are found on Macquarie Island, Heard Islands, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. The total breeding population is estimated to be over 300,000 pairs.

Nests are usually made from a roughly circular pile of stones and can be quite large, 20 cm high and 25 cm in diameter. Two eggs are laid, both weighing around 130 g. The parents share incubation changing duty daily. The eggs hatch after 34 to 36 days. The chicks remain in the nests for about 30 days before forming crèches. The chicks moult into sub-adult plumage and go out to sea at about 80 to 100 days.

Feeding Habits of Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo penguins are opportunistic feeders, and around the Falklands are known to take roughly equal proportions of fish (Patagonotothen sp., Thysanopsetta naresi, Micromesistius australis), crustaceans (Munida gregaria) and squid (Loligo gahi, Gonatus antarcticus, Moroteuthis ingens).

Gentoos live mainly on crustaceans such as krill, with fish making up only about 15% of the diet.

Predators of the Gentoo
In the water, sea lions, leopard seals, and orca, are all predators of the Gentoo. On land there are no predators of the full grown gentoos, but birds have been known to steal their eggs and chicks.

Scientific Classification of the Gentoo Penguin

> Kingdom: Animalia
> Phylum: Chordata
> Class: Aves
> Order: Sphenisciformes
> Family: Spheniscidae
> Genus: Pygoscelis
> Species: P. papua

Other Interesting Facts
The Gentoo are the most timid species of penguin.

Gentoo Linux is a Linux distribution named after this penguin, maybe for the penguin's great speed.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.


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