How Do Penguins Get Their Food?

Every animal and bird in the world hunt to get their food. Penguins are the unique character family of birds. They are flightless and aquatic birds, in simple words, instead of flying they hunt underwater to get their food. They adapted a marine lifestyle, so they always survive beside the sea. Penguins are predators, which means they kill other living beings to get as food.

Penguin with Hunted Fish

Penguins hunt fish, squid, and krill as their food. They hunt in an open ocean at the surface, at mid-level and more in-depth under the ice. It is a record that they can swim at a speed of 15 mph and 1,850 feet in depth.

Their depth hunting depends on the classes of penguins. Penguins have a sharp pointed beak and tongue which is rearward pointed consists of sticky teeth like bars that help to catch the prey (fish, krill, and squid) entirely though they are slippery. They do not have teeth so that penguins won’t chew the food; instead, they swallow it.

Penguin Eating the Fish Underwater

How do penguins hunt underwater?

Penguins have a common place for hunting called group foraging. Though it is the anti-predator character, they have undertaken it. Penguins attack on ‘bait-ball’ (the group of fish tightly packed in a spherical form with a common center) which means, fish or krill are abundantly available in a group in deep underwater, they attack the group because it makes easy for them to catch one individual which is escaping.

They hunt a fish that is high in nutrition and size with less effort. They dive into deep and catch the food while rising towards the surface. Penguins swallow one fish at a time. Penguins have competition between them for the food. If a penguin catches the fish, others may steal from it.

We may have the question- how long do they hunt underwater? Do they kill even during nights? Here is the answer.

Usually, the female penguins go for hunting, they walk up to 50 miles or until they get the open ocean. They undertake the hunting process around two months. Penguins have excellent sharp eyesight so they can spot their prey in the deep sea.

Since Antarctica have half a year daylights and half a year complete dark due to the rotation of the earth, so there are no nights for them. But during the winter it is difficult for them to hunt the fish.

How often do penguins eat?

Food Intake in terms of variety and quantity depends upon the availability of food, area they are living in, time of the year, species of the penguins belong. For example, emperor penguins consume 6 kg (13 pounds) per day whereas the small penguins of the world, i.e., little penguins eat small fish around ⅓ rd of their body weight; their weight is 1.5 kg, and the food they intake is around 0.5 kg.

Male penguins have a fasting period too. Yes, Male penguins fast from the step of finding the rookery to the stage of the chick hatch. They don’t leave the nesting colony until their chick comes out of the egg and they don’t eat anything for the whole period.

The thick fat layer of their body provides energy for them. Fasting period also depends on the penguin species, for example, male king penguin fasts for 54 days and emperor penguin fasts for 120 days.

Female penguins after laying eggs leave the nesting colony and start to walk towards the open ocean to hunt the food. Penguins have a special regurgitation (the action of bringing swallowed food up again to the mouth) feature in their creation. After two months of hunting, they come back to the nesting colony and feed their chick by regurgitation.

Penguin Feeding the Chick


Penguins can’t fly like other birds in search of food. Since they are aquatic birds, they hunt their food underwater. They swim deep in the open ocean using their flippers to swallow fish, krill, squid, which are the available food for them in the area they are leading their life.


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I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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