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What Do Emperor Penguins Eat?

What Do Emperor Penguins Eat?

This article will answer the question “what do emperor penguins eat?” both in the wild and in captivity. It will also show you some remarkable facts about this wonderful bird species.



The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and biggest of all known species of penguins and is native to Antarctica. Emperor penguins are amazing creatures. They have a white stomach, a black head and black tail, backs and wings. They also have yellowish-gold markings on the sides of their necks and heads. They have been gifted by nature with great insulation through many layers of scale-like feathers. This helps them survive in Antarctica their whole lives where temperatures could drop to as low as -60 degrees Centigrade. Instead of breeding during warmer summer months like other penguins, the Emperor Penguins lay their eggs and incubate them during the coldest time of the year in the coldest place on the planet. Now that we know the emperor penguins habitat, what do emperor penguins look like and even the emperor penguin scientific name, we proceed with their diet and feeding strategies.

What do Emperor Penguins eat?

The Emperor Penguin is carnivorous and hunts and eats only animals in their habitat in order to survive. Fish, krill, squid, and crustaceans make up the diet of emperor penguins. OK, so emperor penguins eat fish. What type of fish do penguins eat? Lanternfish are the main type of fish eaten by Emperor Penguins. Fish constitute 80-100% of the diet except during winter where the percentage becomes 30%. In captivity, emperor penguins can be fed the same fish that other penguins eat which include silverfish, sardines or any small fish such as smelt, herring, and anchovies. Make sure that the fishes are clean though and do not have parasites so the emperor penguins don’t get sick. Most of the prey items of emperor penguins are small and are very cold when they ingest them which makes it easier to bring the food to body temperature and to digest. An adult penguin can eat up to 2-3 kg every day. If they need to fatten up before molting or at the beginning of the breeding season, they could eat up as much as 6 kg. per day. Breeding adults really have to be full before returning to their colony from their hunting grounds. They have to feed their chicks and their colonies and every chick need 42 kg of food from every parent.

How do Emperor Penguins find food?

Now that you know the answer to our theme question “what do emperor penguins eat?” let’s now talk about the way this bird get their food. How do emperor penguins find food? Emperor penguins are magnificent divers and swimmers. Penguins feed in the waters. They usually look for food within 50-60 ft. from the surface. Finding prey can change seasonally and daily. Penguins mainly depend on their vision when they hunt. It is not certain how penguins find prey during the dark, at night or in deeper parts of the ocean. Some studies suggest that the penguins are aided by the bioluminescence of crustaceans, fishes and oceanic squids. Penguins catch their prey with their bills and swallow them whole while they are swimming. A penguin possesses a remarkably spiny tongue and strong jaws to grip their slippery food.

Interesting facts about Emperor Penguins

  • The emperor penguin life cycle is characterized mostly by huddling together to warm each other from the cold.
  • Around April every year, the beginning of winter in Antarctica, emperor penguins meet to breed on the thick Antarctic ice.
  • Today, emperor penguins are considered near threatened and their populations are expected to dwindle in the coming years.

So, what do emperor penguins eat? This species of penguin love fish, especially lantern fish. Go tell your new found information to your friends and family!



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