Best 10 Penguins Food Facts, What do penguins eat?

What do penguins eat?

Penguins are marvelous creatures, they look like birds, and yet they are birds but they cannot fly. Instead, their body is equipped with necessary structures to be efficient in water. But, we often consider that penguins live in harsh environments, either they live in too cold environments or either they inhabit very dry areas. But, what do they eat?

As we acknowledge that penguins are proficient in waters, therefore most of their diet comes from water. The diet through which penguins feed themselves include krill, fish, crabs, and squids.

The diet of the penguins also depend on their species, and the regions they inhabit. Penguins from Antarctica, and from the sub-atlantic are relatively smaller. The main diet of these small penguins is krill and squids that they eat frequently in larger quantities.

On the other hand, penguins located in the North are relatively bigger in size than the former penguins. Hence, they eat fish as their prime diet. Famous penguins Adelie prefer krill as their diet while Chinstrap penguins tend to eat big-sized krills.

The amount of food penguins eat depend upon the food availability, and also the time of the year. Because at different times of the year the quantity of food resources varies.

What do penguins eat?

Penguins are marvelous creatures—flightless birds with excellent swimming capabilities. Penguins are capable of surviving in diverse habitats from tropical to tundra. There are seventeen different species of penguins that thrive in the world. Out of them, eight are very important. So, today we are all studying an essential aspect of penguins, and that is What do penguins eat?.

It is crucial to learn about this because, as they live in diverse habitats, it is essential to know the diet of a specific penguin species in each habitat? 

List of things penguins eat

Penguins are mainly found in the Southern hemisphere, and most of them rely on colder environments. The morphology is almost consistent in all species with slight differences. 

The smallest penguin, blue penguins weigh about three pounds, while on the other hand, Emperor penguins can weigh about a hundred pounds. So, depending upon their sizes, the amount of food they eat also varies. 

Their prime diet is marine, which keeps on changing as the season changes. The leading food of most of the penguins are:

Krill for penguins:

Krill are small creatures, resembling shrimps and are present in all oceans and seas. They are almost two inches in size, and they travel in large groups, which can be even observed by space. If krills were not present in oceans, most of the Antarctic life would not survive. Many penguins rely on krill only as their leading dietary supplement. Adelie, King, Macaroni, and Chinstrap penguins are among the significant eaters of krill. 

Fish for penguins:

All penguins one way or the other consume fishes either large or small. Emperor penguins primarily eat fish as their diet, as almost Ninety percent of their food is fish. On the other hand, chinstrap penguins eat four percent of their food like fish. They eat small-sized fishes like sardines, anchovies, and herrings, etc. 

Squid for penguins:

Almost all penguins, including Emperor, Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adelie, eat squid because they come seasonally. Squids are alien-like creatures consisting of a big brain, eight arms, and two hearts. 

They are cephalopods with soft bodies. The intake of squids increases in the summer season as there are plenty of squids available.  All penguins eat both baby and adult squids, which include arrow squids, and greater hooked squids. 

Crustaceans for penguins:

Penguins also eat crustaceans sometimes. These are hard-bodied invertebrates containing segmented bodies; Shrimps, crabs, and hoppers belong to the Crustacean group. Penguins can dive almost three hundred and thirty feet to obtain Crustaceans. However, that’s rare penguins primarily don’t go further than one hundred and fifty feet. 

Amphipods for penguins:

Amphipods also look similar to Shrimps. These marine creatures are the primary diet of Chinstrap penguins. They do not have a hard structure over their bodies, which is a characteristic similar to Crustaceans. Amphipods are present beneath the ice and are the significant diet of penguins. Amphipods are present in all icy areas. 

All about penguins-Diet and eating Habits 

We all know that the marine creatures are the primary diet of penguins but, what are their preferences let’s know about that. 

Diet preferences and their sources:

Penguins rely on krill, fishes, and squids as their prime diet. However, different species have different food preferences that reduce the competition of finding food among different species. 

As the dietary needs of small penguin species are less; therefore, they mainly rely on frill and squids (small aquatic creatures). 

Adelie penguins eat small krills while Chinstrap penguins consume large-sized krills. At the same time, Emperor penguins eat large fishes and squids. 

Amount of consumption:

The amount of food penguins consume depends on the species, food availability, and the time of the year. An entire Adelie penguin population is capable of eating 1,500,000,000 kilograms of krill, 115,000,000 kilograms of fish, and 3,500,000 kilograms of squids.

How do they find and collect food? 

What do penguins eat? Penguins are mainly present on seashores. Therefore they rely on marine animals as their diet. Penguins usually dive fifty to sixty feet to find food. 

Penguins are much dependent on their vision for catching the prey. However, scientists do not know about how they locate their prey at night or in great depths. But, it is believed that most marine creatures’ bioluminescence enables them to discover the food. 

Penguins grab the prey with their beaks. They also have many thorn-like structures present on their tongue and firm jaws to hold the slippery prey in place. 

Galapagos penguins, however, also eat other species too instead of the marine only. They also feed upon flightless cormorants, brown noddies, brown pelicans, masked blue footed-bobbies. 

Penguins also travel when food is scarce, and they have to move to locate more food resources. When the water sources are not near, they mainly feed upon fishing grounds and seal holes. 

What do penguins eat 2

Stone ingestion:

Many penguins, including Emperor, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Magellanic, and Yellow-eyed penguins, are found to have their stomachs filled with stones. Either they consume it accidentally, or they do it on purpose, it is not known. 

However, King, Rockhoppers, and Macaroni penguins do this on purpose. They do this to reduce the buoyancy effect, and sometimes to reduce the hunger sensation.

They also swallow stones to aid the digestion of hard skeletons of crustaceans. King penguins can even intake twenty-four stones in a minute ranging in size from ten millimeters to thirty millimeters. 


Penguins do fasting annually; however, before this period, they have to grow a thick fat layer to consume energy. 

  • Penguins do fasting while breeding, nesting, incubating, and in short, the whole breeding season. 
  • Penguins also have to fast during molting. As they have a reduced amount of feathers, so they can not go in the cold water to search for food. 
  • Juveniles, when discarding their baby feathers and are ready to grow, the adult’s plumage also fast during this time. Chicks do not increase during the fasting period; however, it resumes as soon as the molting is done. 
  • King penguins and Emperor penguins have the most extended fasting periods. 

What kind of food do penguins eat? 

It is not hard for anyone to identify a penguin. However, what do penguins eat? The penguins eat a limited number of marine animals, mainly including the marine animals. By understanding what do penguins eat,? It will be easy to conserve to them by protecting their food resources. 

Penguins Major food:

Penguins are carnivores obtaining most of their diet from the sea. The type of food they consume depends on their species, size of beaks, and their environment. 

Fish: Sprats, Silverfish, Lantern fish, Mulets, Pilchards, Sardines, Anchovies, Cod, Opals, and some other tiny fishes are their primary diet. 

Crustaceans: Smaller penguin species eat a lot of krill, shrimps, crabs, and other crustaceans to survive. 

Cephalopods: Sometimes, the squid and cuttlefish also make up a penguin’s diet. These are the staple for those penguins that are capable of deep diving. 

Most of the penguins grab the opportunity and eat whatever they find. They will consume the maximum amount of those animals that are readily and easily accessible in their respective habitats. 

What kind of fish do penguins eat?

There are several kinds of fish that penguins consume in different habitats. But what do penguins eat? The size of the consuming fish depends on the size of their beaks. Types of fish also depend on where a specific penguin is living. These include:

  • Silverfish 
  • Lantern fish
  • Sprats
  • Pilchards
  • Opals
  • Sardines
  • Mullets 
  • Anchovies
  • Cod
  • Other small fishes

Do penguins eat plankton? 

Most of the penguin species are carnivores and are mainly heterotrophic. Therefore, roughly the diet of all the penguins includes marine mammals like fish, krill, squids, and shrimps. However, some of the species that are the members of the genus Pygoscelis have some food preferences. They may rely on Plankton as their main diet. Penguins are opportunities availing animals, and they do not shy about eating anything readily available and also in excess. 

How often do penguins eat? 

The diet of the penguins depends on their size, species, and their habitats. Because most of the habitats have excessive amounts of food, whereas others don’t, so what and how much they eat depends. 

However, before breeding and molting seasons, they have to eat massive amounts of food. It is necessary to consume vast quantities of food because they have to do fasting, and to survive, it is essential to build up a thick fat layer. 

While fasting, this fat layer provides them energy. Regularly an Emperor penguin eats two to four kilograms per day. But before breeding and molting seasons, they may eat up to six kilograms per day. 

What do penguins eat 3

Do penguins eat their poop?

Penguins living at Antarctica’s cost like Adelie and Emperor penguins are fond of eating krill, a tiny shrimp, which is pink in color. These penguins eat bulk amounts of these marine creatures. As a result, their poop also called  “guano.” Now, when they eat too much krill, their poop appears like the same thing. So sometimes these penguins take their poop as krill, and they may eat it. 

What do penguins eat and drink? 

Penguins are flightless birds mainly present on seashores. As the penguins can’t fly, they have to dive in seas and waters to locate their food. The penguins have substantial bills and sharp tongue that helps them to grab the slippery, slimy marine creatures. The type of aquatic animals they consume depends on their species, size, and habitat. The prime diet of penguins includes fish, krill, squid, and crustaceans. 

What do penguins eat in the wild? 

Penguins locate their food while diving. They have evolved their wings so that they can swim excellently rather than flying. Their wings are like flippers, which provide them agility in the water. They have developed because they have to search for their foods, mainly in the sea. 

If not from the sea, they may rely on some flightless birds as well. However, penguins are heterotrophic carnivores and are mainly availing of the opportunities. They eat primarily fish, krill, squids, and crustaceans like crabs, etc. 

What do penguins eat 4

What do penguins eat in the zoo? 

In captivation, penguins do not have to face the prolonged fasting and molting periods, which they face in the wild environment. 

In a zoo, penguins are provided with a very balanced diet, which is monitored by biologists, zookeepers, veterinarians, and the caretakers of the aquarium present in the zoo.

In the zoo, penguins usually feed through hands and eat the chopped fish. Occasionally as the season’s change, the caretakers may add some additional nutrient supplements so that they can survive and be healthy in artificial environments. 

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