What Do Emperor Penguins Eat?

Emperor penguins are one of the astonishing birds on the earth. They not only live in the winters of the Antarctic, but they breed at the time of most horrible weather environments on the planet. It is the biggest size penguin among the 18 other species. The life of these penguins is not more than 20 years, but some of them can live up to 40 years too.

Emperor Penguins in Antartica
Emperor Penguins in Antartica

There are lots of things that fascinate us about this bird and one of the common questions that usually hit our mind is what do emperor penguins eat? Does their diet is also similar to the diet of other penguins? On which type of foods they survive in the worst conditions? We know you must also be very curious to know the answer to these questions.

In the below article, we will discuss what do emperor penguins eat in details and besides this, we will also share with you some extraordinary specifics about this magnificent bird species.

What Types of Food Do the Emperor Penguins Eat?

As you know that the Emperor Penguin is a carnivorous bird that eats and hunts only animals for their survival. The main diet of this bird includes krill, fish, crustaceans, and squid. You must be wondering what kind of fish penguins eat?

Well! The main fish that emperor penguins eat is Lanternfish. Fish is almost 90 % to 100 % of their diet apart from the winter time in which the percentage falls to 30 %. In confinement, these penguins might be served with the similar fish which other penguins have like sardines, silverfish, or any tiny fish like herring, smelt as well as anchovies. But the main thing is that these fishes have to be clean so that no parasites exist on it as these bugs can make them sick easily.

Emperor Penguin baby
Emperor Penguin baby

The other prey usually comes in the diet of emperor penguins including fishes of the family Nototheniidae, the addicted squid species Kondakovia longimana, the icy squid (Psychroteuthis glacialis), and Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). The penguin hunt for their prey inside the Southern Ocean’s opens water, i.e., in snow-free areas of tidal fissures in pack ice or open water.

During its search for food, the penguins can dive to nearly 50 m from where the sympagic fish such as bald notothen can be easily spotted. They swim against the lowest surface of the ocean-ice and plunge up to the bottom area of the sea and catch the prey. After this, it dives once more and repeats the same process several times before getting to the surface. They will pretty often reach the lowest point of over 700 feet and keep underwater for around 20 minutes at least.

The emperor penguins are nearby the topmost of the food chain of Southern Ocean. They possess a wide-ranging menu which alters with every season. Some of their prey is more significant than the others. The most often consumed prey categories is Antarctic silverfish Pleuragramma antarcticum.

What Do the Emperor Penguin Chicks Eat?

The chicks of the Emperor Penguins are not so much enough or sturdy to hunt their food till the time ice melts in summer, and thus they depend on their parents for collecting the food for them. Females and males penguins have to go to the sea for hunting the food, and after returning, they feed their rapid-growing chick by spitting up fishy sticky stuff from their belly into the mouth of chick. At the time of hatching their egg in a season of winter, the male penguins have no food almost and might lose around their partial body weight till the time the baby penguin gets hatched from the egg two months afterward.

The maximum number of emperor penguin’s prey is smaller in size as well as very cold so that they can consume and digest them easily. The adult penguin might eat around 2 Kg to 3 kg daily. When they have to build up their body before the time of molting or during the commencement of the breeding period, they might consume food around 6 kg in one single day.

Breeding chicksactually have to make their stomach full before coming back to their penguin’s colony from their hunting lands. They need to feed their baby penguins as well as their colonies, and every single chick requires 43 kg of food from every single parent.

How Do the Emperor Penguins Discover Their Food?

After knowing about the foods that emperor penguins eat, it becomes essential to know that how do they get their food.

You know that the Emperor penguins are beautiful divers as well as swimmers. They mostly feed inside the oceans or sea. They generally look for their food in the interior of 50 ft. to 60 ft. from the ground. The way of discovering the prey might alter seasonally and daily.

Emperor penguins mostly use their vision at the time of hunting the prey. We are not assured that how penguins discover their prey in the night, during the dark or in bottomless areas of the ocean. Several types of research recommend that these penguins assisted by the bioluminescence of fishes, crustaceans, and marine squids. They catch their target with the help of their beaks and gulp them entirely during the swimming. The penguin has an extraordinarily prickly tongue and robust jawbones to hold their slippery foodstuff.

Are Emperor Penguins Having Enough Consumption of Food?

The Emperor penguins that waddle nearby the warming Antarctic, as well as shrinking sea ice area, gets fewer amounts of fish to eat. Nowadays, the researchers are quite worried about these penguins survival in the extreme changing climatic conditions as they are not getting enough food like the earlier time.

According to recent research, it is true that the global warming is cutting down the food obtainability for Emperor penguins. Also, if their diets alter considerably, it might have consequences on the longevity and health of these aquatic birds that are already predictable to be extremely threatened or nearby to unknown status by the current end of the century.

If you see all the species of the penguins, the emperor penguins are the biggest one that has remarkably long journeys on the sea to reach their hunting surfaces and feed their big size chicks after coming back. On the other hand, the reducing sea ice has also influenced the population of the tiny plankton living below the sea which is also the primary source of food for the fish that emperor penguins consume. The ice of the sea also offers a significant relaxing platform for these birds in between scavenging dives, thus melting might make hunting quite tricky.


After reading the above info, we think that now you in detail that what do emperor penguins eat?

There are numerous foods that these penguins eat, but their primary food source is fish. They dive into the water to catch their prey and gather them together in their stomach for feeding their chicks. But the global warming, human intervention and changing climatic conditions are affecting the availability of different food sources and survival conditions for these birds.

If you have any experiences or thoughts related to the above topic then, you can share it with us in the below comment box. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends who do not know much about the diet of the emperor penguins so far.





Image Source

  1. Emperor Penguins in Antartica by BDougherty / Pixabay License
  2. Emperor Penguin baby by MemoryCatcher / Pixabay License


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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Emily sevostjanov - September 1, 2022

name me 12 stuff they eat


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