Chinstrap Penguins - Cute but watch out
If you’re heading to Antarctica or the Subantarctic, chances are you’ll spot a chinstrap penguin. Chances are you’ll spot hundreds! Possibly the most abundant amongst penguins, the aptly named chinstrap penguin is easily identified by the thin black marking that runs from one side of the head, under the chin and across to the other side of the head, giving it an almost quizzical, comical look.
Today we’ve got some quick facts about these cute little birds so you’re ready for when you see them for yourself:
- Although just 4kg on average, chinstrap penguins can reach depths of 70m, although most dives are just over half this deep and last just 20-30 seconds.
- Chinstraps are mostly monogamous – they return to the same partner each year.
- The lifespan of a chinstrap penguin is around 20 years.
- Chinstraps have a number of other names including Ringed Penguin, Bearded Penguin and Stonebreaker or Stonecracker Penguin. You might think that it’s named the Stonebreaker because it collects rocks for it’s nest. Not so – it’s actually because it’s screech is so darned loud and piercing, it could crack rocks!
- This cute little penguin is not always so cute. Chinstraps are actually one of the most aggressive of the penguin species!
- Chinstrap penguins usually stay fairly close to the coastline but can swim up to 80 kilometres offshore every day in the search for food. On land, they often “toboggan” on their stomachs, propelling themselves forward by their feet or flippers.
- Chinstrap penguins like a good get-together and during breeding season they’ll often congregate in large groups with an elaborate combination of communication skills at play including head waving, flipper waving, bowing, gesturing and preening.
- During the mating season, the males will arrive at the colony around 5 days ahead of the females. He’ll spend these days locating the rock area they used the previous year and begin adding rocks (and sometimes bones!) to prepare it for nesting.
- Usually two eggs are laid at the beginning of December and both parents take turns incubating the eggs in 6-day shifts until they hatch 37 days later. Babies will stay with their parents for around a month and then join the other chicks in the crèche.
You’ll find them throughout the South Sandwich Islands, Antarctica, South Orkneys, South Shetland, South Georgia, Bouvet Island and Subantarctic Islands. They’re a protected species with the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 making it illegal to harm, or in any way interfere with, a penguin and/or its eggs. Although there are currently approximately 13 million chinstrap penguins, numbers are actually declining. Scientists are attributing this decline to climate change.
Pretty much every cruise to Antarctica will call where chinstrap penguins can be seen, often in their hundreds. If Antarctica is on your travel list, the Ultimate Cruising team can talk you through the various options available, whether you want to cruise just the Antarctic Peninsula or combine this with the Falkland Islands or South Georgia. The booking time for people planning to visit Antarctica is often more than a year out which is why the cruises are often sold out. Antarctica’s strict restrictions on the number of people landing at any one time also means the ships are usually smaller and again, this means they book out quickly.