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Macaroni penguin

Scientific name: Eudyptes chrysolophus

Named after the bizarre Macaroni coiffure hairstyles of 18th century dandies, macaroni penguins have orange tufty plumes for eyebrows.

With an estimated population of 12 million breeding pairs, macaroni penguins are the most numerous, but only a proportion of them live in the Antarctic region where they inhabit subantarctic islands (although there is one macaroni rookery on the Antarctic Peninsula).

Macaronis are very colonial, forming massive colonies of hundreds of thousands of birds, nesting on hillsides and rocky cliffs. They are very vocal, especially when establishing territories.

Like other crested penguins, the macaroni has a curious egg-laying habit. It lays two eggs, the first much smaller than the second. The small egg rarely hatches, and only one chick is ever raised. Scientists are still puzzling as to why the smaller of the two eggs laid by crested penguins will produce a chick only if the larger egg is lost.

On the island of South Georgia they arrive at their breeding grounds in late October and lay their eggs about two weeks later. Both parents share long incubation shifts and can can lose up to half of their body weight.

The chick fledges two months after hatching. Only one third of the breeding pairs raise a chick to fledge, but this success rate is very stable. The macaroni does not experience the boom-and-bust cycles of other penguins, possibly because they concentrate their efforts on just one chick.


In the Antarctic, macaroni penguins are found near BAS operations at Signy Research Station.