Where Do Penguins Eat

Have you ever wondered where do penguins eat? Not many people know penguins’ feeding habits. Therefore, we’ve decided to give up some of the most valuable information regarding a penguins’ diet.

Penguins are primarily dependent on the sea creatures underneath. They pick their prey in the water while swimming.

Penguins are torpedo-shaped sea birds. They dwell in the Earth’s southern hemisphere.

Although many people imagine a small, black, and white animal when they think of penguins, these birds are in various sizes, and some are very colorful.

Squid, fish, krill, and crustaceans are just a few of the aquatic species that penguins enjoy. Fish accounts for more than 80% of penguins’ diet among these creatures.

Today, we are going to dive deep and understand – ” where different penguins eat?” Are you ready? Let’s go!

The southern hemisphere is home to the majority of penguins. Countries like New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa have a more significant population of penguins. Galapagos penguins can be found only north of the equator.

All penguin species in the Antarctic and Subantarctic primarily feed on krill and squid. Species found in the Southern hemisphere tend to eat fish.

Adelie penguins feed mainly on the tiny krill, while chinstrap goes for the larger krill. Emperor and king penguins eat fish and krill.

Because they can’t fly away from danger, most penguins dwell on islands with few terrestrial predators.

The penguins spend a considerable part of their lives swimming and hunting fish to eat on the islands surrounded by water.

What Do Penguins Eat?

Penguins are flightless birds that are part of the Sphecidae family. Penguins are carnivores, which means they eat meat.

These birds mainly eat aquatic animals. Their diet includes krill (small crustaceans), squid, and fish. Certain penguin species can make a big dent in an area’s food supply.

Since penguins travel a lot during the breeding season, they need to eat heavily to gain strength and survive a few days without food.

Gentoo penguins limit their diet to Antarctic krill, lantern fish, glacial squid, and silverfish. 

The breeding population of Adelie penguins (about 2,370,000 pairs) may consume up to 1.5 million metric tons (1.5 billion kg) of krill, 115,000 metric tons (115 million kilograms) of fish, and up to 3,500 metric tons (3.5 billion kilograms) of seaweed (3.5 million kg). Every year according to SeaWorld.

The yellow-eyed penguin is very persistent when hunting for food. Yellow-eyed penguins focus mainly on small fish to supplement their diet.

According to the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust, it will dive to a depth of 120 meters (393.70 ft) up to 200 times a day in search of fish. Fish constitutes more than 95% of the diet of these penguins.

Little penguins rely primarily on squid for their nutrients. Since these little blue penguins don’t dive very deep into the water, they only survive while eating squid. 

Galapagos and African penguins commonly feed on sardines, cuttlefish, cephalopods, krill, squid, crustaceans, anchovies, and pilchards.

Crested, rockhopper, and royal penguins feed mainly on krill, squid, octopus, and crustaceans. King penguins especially eat lantern fish along with squid.

When Do Penguins Eat Food?

These flightless birds usually consume fewer fish in winter than in the summer. Emperor penguins feed on cephalopods in addition to squid and lantern fish.

These birds do not eat anything during the breeding season. Because these flightless birds travel a lot, they require a fat-oriented diet that helps them gain strength and allows them to live a few days without eating anything.

How Do Penguins Get Their Food?

Every animal and bird on the planet is on a hunt for food. Penguins are a species of bird with a distinct personalities.

They are flightless and aquatic birds. Put another way, and they hunt underwater instead of flying to get their food.

Penguins have adopted a marine lifestyle, so they always survive by the sea. They always hunt in the open ocean at the surface, mid-level, and greater depths under the ice. 

Many people are curious about how adult penguins get food in the ocean, particularly at great depths with little light, where squid and other crustaceans like to hang out. Fortunately, penguins have excellent eyesight and rely on their keen eye to find prey.  

Penguins are hunters, killing other living creatures to obtain them as food. Fish, squid, and krill are the primary food sources for penguins.

It is a record that penguin can swim at speeds of up to 15 mph and depths of 1,850 feet. Their intensive prey depends on the classes of penguins.

penguin can swim at speeds of up to 15 mph

Penguins have a sharp pointed tongue and beak pointed at the back with sticky teeth-like rods that help them grasp prey (fish, krill, and squid) perfectly, even if they are slippery. They do not have teeth, so penguins cannot chew food; Instead, they swallow it.

How Often Do Penguins Eat?

These flightless birds consume various types and amounts of food based on multiple factors: the species they belong to, the quantity and kind of food available around them, their location, the time of the year.

For instance, emperor penguins can consume 6 kg (13 lb.) per day while the world’s little penguins, i.e., blue penguins, eat smaller fish to circumscribe their body weight. Little penguins weigh 1.5. The amount of food they eat is about 0.5 kg. 

Male penguins also have periods of fasting. Yes, male penguins fast from the stage of finding the rook to the location of hatching.

They do not leave the nesting colony until their chick comes out of the egg, and they do not eat anything for the entire period.

Where Do Penguins Find Their Food?

Penguins catch prey with their bills and swallow it whole while swimming.

A penguin has a forked tongue and powerful jaws to capture slippery prey. Penguins of all species hunt for food in the same way.

They can either catch it in the water or scrape the more miniature food off the underside of the ice, such as krill.

Baby penguins depend on their parents for food. It is a meaningful way that penguins can feed their young.

Young penguins depend on their parent for food. While male seabirds spend most of their time on land, either guarding eggs or raising young, female penguins are busy eating food and storing it in a special place in their bodies.

Then, when the baby penguin is hungry, the female penguin spews up the previously eaten food, and the baby penguin takes it from the parent’s mouth.

How Much Do Penguins Eat?

An adult penguin can eat over fifty pounds in a single hunt and often uses it for fat storage. This fat helps to keep them warm and their calories high to hibernate in cold conditions or while molting.

Smaller species, such as blue penguins, feed on krill, while larger species like king and emperor eat fish.

How much a penguin eats completely depends on the time of year. In the summer, most species of penguins hunt every day.

Daily hunting means they can eat more than two pounds of food per day. However, hunting is more strategic when eggs are protected or during the winter or the molting season. Often the male penguin keeps an eye on the eggs while the female spends months looking for food.

Male penguins protect their eggs and do not hunt at all. Their bodies are thus not burdened with body fat that accumulates during the summer.

On average, a male penguin can lose up to 45% of its body weight while waiting for its mate to return.

How Do Penguins Hunt For Their Food Underwater?

Penguins are a unique family of birds. They are perfectly adapted to an aquatic marine lifestyle, as they are flightless and quite messy on land but are fast, graceful swimmers underwater.

All penguins are predators, with the essential penguin diet generally being krill and small fish and squid-like crustaceans.

Penguins seem to hunt primarily by sight and use various methods to capture their quarry, from swimming passively with a sharp beak through clouds of krill to chasing larger fish. There are many ways penguins use to hunt their prey.

What Are Penguins’ Hunting Strategies?

Pelagic (open sea) environments are home to many penguin species. They target surface waters and mid-level depths of more than several hundred to one thousand feet, in the case of the more oversized king and emperor species.

A variety of penguins, including the emperor, king, Gentoo, rockhopper, and yellow-eyed penguin, will also forage in benthic (seafloor) environments in the coastal waters around their colonies.

Do Penguins Forage In Groups?

Group foraging is common among some pelagic-hunting penguins, including banded penguins of the genus Spheniscus and little.

Group foraging may be advantageous when fishing because multiple-eyed groups can better detect schools than any traditional prey-catching method.

Penguins that hunt with each other may compete for prey. Biologists have recorded that at least at one instance, a penguin, a Gentoo penguin, in particular, is actively trying to steal another’s food.

However, groups of banded penguins such as African penguins may be able to bunch up schools or pin them against the surface, allowing individual penguins to sweep through the resulting “bait-ball” and snatch the fish or tame them. Penguins can catch a panicked fish that escapes.

How Does A Penguin Attack From Below?

During a study, little Australian penguins showed that they could catch their prey above or below the shore or the sea.

For instance, emperor penguins that live under the Antarctic ice dive to a modest depth and then rise to fish under the sea ice.

While the tendency to grab prey from below may be partly a function of its greater visibility from its unique orientation, other factors may also be involved.

A study of gentoo penguins in the Falkland Islands revealed that prey like a lobster or krill actively defends with its tongs and fights back with the penguin for its life.

As a result, krill escaping from the bottom might be the right moment to ambush the crustaceans before they can fight back.

Another study showed that Magellanic penguins swim through masses of lobster krill, not chewing the krill themselves, but feeding on anchovies and other fish.

Large schools of small pelagic “food fish” often attract the attention of seabirds such as gannets, fulmars, shearwaters, and gulls.

Some evidence suggests that penguins may employ clues at these gatherings to find prey.

Studies on little penguins in Australia assessed their foraging strategies by attaching video cameras to the birds themselves, suggesting that penguins looked for short-tailed shearwaters on the fins to locate fish schools and followed them.

What Is The Size And Weight Of Penguins?

Only the species of penguin determines how big and how heavy it is. Their height ranges between 15 inches to 3.5 feet. Their weight varies from 2 pounds to 88 pounds.

For Instance – Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are one of the largest species in penguins, with an average height of 45 inches. These penguins can weigh up to 88 pounds.

The blue penguin (Eudyptula minor), also known as the little penguin, or the fairy penguin, is the tiniest of all the penguins.

Adult tiny blue penguins range in length from 10 to 12 inches and weigh between 2.2 and 3.3 pounds, with males being somewhat more extensive and heavier than females.

What Nutrients Do Penguins Get From The Food They Eat?

In the wild penguins, and other fish-eating species feed mainly on fish, crustaceans, and squid. These food sources differ in their fatty acid, vitamin, and carbohydrate content.

Captive fish usually include squid, herring, smelt, mackerel, and whiting fish. One of the most crucial parts of feeding fish-eating birds is the quality of the fish.

Supplements commonly that penguin derives from eating small sea creatures are very nutritious. The prey provides nutrients to keep them safe from other typical diseases or weaknesses.

Let’s take a look at what nutrition’s do penguins get from the various sea animals:

Fish: It is a low-fat, high-quality protein source for penguins. It is rich in calcium and phosphorus and is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.

Fish is abundant in protein, vitamins, and minerals, which can help decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Eating fish is an essential source of omega-3 fatty acids for these penguins. These essential nutrients keep their heart and brain health. Fish contains two omega-3 fatty acids:

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

Penguins’ bodies do not produce these acids, and they eat fish to survive in harsh environments.

Krill: These are shrimp-like crustaceans that grow up to 2 inches long and serve as food for penguins or other sea creatures. The krill may be one of the most abundant organisms on the planet for seabirds.

Krill is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-3s are an essential part of the membrane surrounding the penguin’s body.

Omega-3s provide energy to their body and have crucial functions in their heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system.

The main advantage of krill is that it has a lot of phospholipids, which help their body better absorb omega-3s.


Squid:  Squid contains many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B-12, potassium, iron, phosphorus, and copper. These essential nutrients aid in the performance and health of blood cells, bones, and the immune system. 

Squid is low in protein, minerals, and calories. It is excellent for those penguins who want to increase their protein intake without compromising their caloric goals. There are only 75 to 85kcl calories in a 100g serving of squid.

Final Thoughts

The penguin is a fascinating seabird, and its diet can vary from species to species. However, most penguins feed on a steady fish, squid, and krill diet. 

Since penguins are aquatic birds, they hunt their food underwater and swallow in the ocean while they swim. 

Penguins consume food to stay warm throughout the winter months and feed their young. They will hunt every day to gain fat to keep them active in the winter and summer.

Male penguins survive the summer heat by guarding their eggs and hunting for food in the colder months. Female penguins hunt to store food they can bring back to their nests.

The facts to get cleared with answers are indeed interesting. I hope you got the response to the factual discussion that happened one day with your friends or family where you left the space filled with sheepish smiles.

Image Source

penguin can swim at speeds of up to 15 mph by Ken FUNAKOSHI / CC BY
Krill by Uwe Kils / CC BY


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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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