Empire of the Penguin - Gentoos

Orange-red bills and feet set these penguins apart from their close relatives, the Adélies and chinstraps. Gentoos also have a white "cap" extending from eye to eye over the top of their heads.

Size: 46–61 cm (18–24 in.), 3.5–4.5 kg (8–10 lb.).
Distribution: circumpolar on Antarctic continent within limits of pack ice

Super recyclers
Gentoo penguins use nesting materials ranging from pebbles and reused, molted feathers in Antarctica to vegetation on subantarctic islands. One medium-sized gentoo nest was composed of 1,700 pebbles and 70 molted tail feathers.

Finding food
Quick—think of something you do 450 times a day on the average. If you were a gentoo penguin, the answer would be diving to find your food. Like all penguins, gentoos spend nearly all of their lives in the ocean but luckily, they're all perfectly adapted to their watery world. Favorite foods include squid and krill.

Nest notes

• Gentoo egg incubation period: 34-36 days
• Both parents take turns protecting the egg/chick while the other feeds at sea
• Brood period: parents keep chick warm and protected on nest for 25-35 days after hatching
• Spherical egg shape is important—a rounded egg could more easily roll further away if accidentally knocked out of the nest
• Chicks fledge (shed downy feathers for waterproof feathers) and leave the colony after 80-100 days
• Gentoos are known to steal rocks and pebbles from the nests of neighboring penguins

Going for gold
Gentoos get a bronze medal for being the third largest type of penguin alive today, but these slick, streamlined birds take gold when it comes to swimming—with speeds up to 22-25 mph (36-40 kph), gentoos are the fastest of all penguin species.

Leopard seals, sea lions and killer whales, oh my!
In the ocean, these are the top three predators of gentoo penguins. On land, gentoo eggs and chicks are vulnerable to birds like skuas. And if survival around Antarctica wasn't challenging enough, overfishing and pollution have made it even harder. Gentoo populations continue to decline in many areas and like other penguin species, they're protected by international law.