All 18 species of penguins are popular birds, and the chinstrap penguin is one of the most distinctive with its marked face, thick bill, and the characteristic black-and-white “tuxedo” plumage that makes penguins so fun and engaging. But there is a lot more to learn about the charming chinstrap penguin!
Chinstrap Penguin Fun Facts
- The chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) is part of the Spheniscidae bird family that includes all penguins, and their closest relatives are the gentoo penguins and adelie penguins. The chinstrap penguin is also called the bearded penguin, stonecracker penguin, and ringed penguin.
- While many penguin species are threatened or endangered, the chinstrap penguin is one of the world’s most abundant penguins with a population estimated at 8-15 million birds. The overall population is believed to be decreasing, however, and these birds may one day be endangered.
- The chinstrap penguin is an Antarctic species, but its range actually extends far past Antarctica and the southern ocean islands. These birds also breed in Argentina and Chile, and vagrant sightings have been recorded as far north as New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
- While most penguins are thought of as friendly and sociable, chinstrap penguins can be very bad tempered and aggressive. They do gather in large groups, but will stare, glare, charge, stretch, point, and make other gestures if they feel threatened.
- Chinstrap penguins don’t become sexually mature and begin breeding until they are 3-7 years old, but because they live up to 20 years and generally lay 2 eggs each year, one pair of chinstraps can have as many as 35 chicks in their lifespan.
- Like all penguins, chinstraps are carnivorous. Krill makes up the bulk of their diet, but they will also hunt and eat different types of squid, shrimp, fish, and crabs.
- Chinstrap penguin guano is a valuable fertilizer and is often harvested from large colonies. With millions of penguins gathering in the same place in their largest colonies, that’s a lot of fertilizer!
Adding the Chinstrap Penguin to Your Life List
While reaching the chinstrap penguin’s native Antarctic range can be a challenge, the effort can be well worthwhile not only to see these birds, but because they often mix in colonies with other penguin species as well as cormorants and similar birds. Different wildlife and photography tour companies offer cruises and other excursions that include seeing chinstrap penguins. Only reputable, responsible tour companies should be used, as uncontrolled tourism is a threat to chinstrap penguins and other Antarctic birds.
If traveling to see wild chinstrap penguins isn’t practical for financial reasons, time constraints, or other difficulties, these penguins are guests in zoos and marine parks throughout the world. SeaWorld parks have resident chinstrap penguins, and the birds are also at home at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Central Park Zoo in New York, Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium in Japan, Loro Parque in the Canary Islands of Spain, and several other locations. Birding in zoos, aquariums, and aviaries can not only let you see birds you can’t otherwise travel to see, but can bring you amazing opportunities to be up close and personal with these exciting birds.
Learn More About the Chinstrap Penguin
There are many great resources with information about the chinstrap penguin, starting with…
- BirdLife International: Worldwide range map for the chinstrap penguin
- Oceanwide Expeditions: Overview of these penguins and where to see them
- Animal Diversity Web: General profile with detailed references
- Penguin-Pedia: The go-to guide for all things penguin
- New Zealand Birds Online: Detailed profile and chinstrap photo gallery
- Xeno-Canto: Collection of chinstrap penguin sound recordings
- Be Your Own Birder: Our exclusive, ad-free gallery of stunning photos