Macaroni Penguin

Macaroni Penguin

Macaroni penguins live on the Sub-Antarctic islands including The Falklands and South Georgia, among others. 
Breeding colonies of the macaroni penguin are situated on either rocky slopes or level ground, usually in areas lacking vegetation, although some nests are located amongst tufts of grass. Outside of the breeding season it is believed to be pelagic, spending all of its time at sea in mostly open ocean.

Zoo Diet

Our penguins are mostly fed sprat, but also capelin, squid, sardines, pilchards and anchovies occasionally.

Wild Diet

In the wild they primarily eat krill, small shoaling fish and squid. Antarctic krill account for around 90% of food during breeding season.


Absent from the colony from April to October, macaroni penguins spend the entirety of these winter months out at sea foraging. Once signs of spring begin to show, males are the first to arrive back at the breeding grounds in late October or early November, with females appearing around a week later. By this point, males would typically have begun the process of selecting a site for a building their ‘scrape’, a make-shift nest formed from small stones, grass and leaves, depending on the availability of foliage. Following this, the iconic ‘ecstatic display’ attracts arriving females to their nest site, and a combination of voice recognition and site recognition encourage them towards the area of previous partners. Once paired up and mated, both parents experience a long period of fasting during incubation and males are first to leave the nesting site in order to spend 12-14 days foraging out at sea before swapping over with their partner. Once the eggs hatch, males guard their chicks vigorously and endure another long fast of around 35 days. Swapping over once more in order to search for food, males return again and chick feeding intensifies and chicks reach fledgling size and weight at around 60 days old. At this stage, parents will stop feeding the chick which will now be self-sufficient and able to find food for itself.


This species prefers large colonies and nests located on steep, sloping terrain. Pairs form/reform immediately after the arrival of the females at their nesting grounds and just 11-12 days later, the first egg is laid. The second egg, which is typically at least twice as large as the first, is laid 2-3 days later and usually results in the abandonment of the first egg. Success rates are around 50% or – in some parts of their range – slightly less.  


Since an estimation of 11 million breeding pairs in the early 1990’s, there has been a marked reduction in population of 30 percent or more and current estimations stand at 8.5 million pairs. Natural threats to eggs & young come in the form of predatory seabirds (Skua, giant petrel & kelp gulls) and Antarctic fur seals and leopard seals predate on adults. However, a downward trend in population is thought to stem mainly from the damaging cocktail of effects caused by ocean pollution, global warming and over-fishing.  

Do you love penguins? Why not book a Penguin Feeding Experience? For more details visit our Penguin Feeding Experience page.



Living Coasts helps coordinate the breeding efforts across the three sites in Europe who currently hold this species (Antwerp Zoo, Folly Farm & Living Coasts).  

Macaroni Penguin Macaroni Penguin


  • Latin Name: Eudyptes chrysolophus
  • Class: Birds
  • Order: Sphenisciformes
  • Family: Spheniscidae
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
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