Like all penguins, gentoos are built for life at sea. Their boat-shaped bodies, round in the middle and pointed at the ends, help them to glide through water. Their flipper-like wings propel them as they swim and their short legs and webbed feet act like rudders. Gentoos may dive more than 400 times in a single day to forage for food.
Compared to other penguins, gentoos live in small groups. While other species may gather in groups of nearly half a million birds during the breeding season, gentoo colonies range from just a few pairs to about 40,000 pairs.
Gentoos eat small fish, crustaceans, krill, and squid. They do not stray far from shore when they feed, usually staying within 18 miles of the colony.
Gentoos breed in the spring, choosing ice-free ground for their nesting grounds. To construct their simple, circular nests, they use everything from twigs and grass to stones. The males gather the materials, but the females are the builders. They take turns incubating their clutch, usually two eggs, for about 5 weeks. The chicks stay in the nest for just under a month after hatching. Then the youngsters of the colony band together in a group called a “crèche” staying on shore while their parents hunt for dinner. Once the juveniles get their adult feathers, around three months, they take to the ocean. They are sexually mature at two years and can live 15 to 20 years.
Some of My Neighbors
King cormorant, king penguin, leopard seal, fur seal
Population Status & Threats
Gentoos are threatened by human disturbance and oil pollution. Fishing is also a problem, as the birds themselves can get caught in nets and the small fish they feed can wind up as fishers’ bycatch.
WCS Conservation Efforts
In 2003, WCS built a field station on the Falkland Islands, where conservationists are conducting surveys of gentoo penguins and other local wildlife. The field station will allow for long-term research on the South Atlantic ecosystem. WCS is also discussing its goals for wildlife conservation on the islands with the Falklands/Malvinas community, including Falkland Conservation and the Board of Governors.