WC’s Guide to Penguins: Macaroni


WC didn’t get to see a lot of Macaroni Penguins; they prefer rocky headlands that don’t offer a lot of opportunity to land. As a result, all of WC’s photos are from zodiacs; mostly bouncing around in swells. These photos aren’t as sharp as WC would like, but it’s what he has.

Macaroni Penguin

Macaroni Penguin

The Macaronis are famously crested with yellow-orange feathers. Both sexes have the crest. Even among penguins, Macaronis are impressive rock climbers. They seem to specialize in very rocky landings.

Macaroni Landing

Macaroni Landing

And from there they make climbs that WC wouldn’t even think of attempting to their headland colonies. For example, this headland,

Macaroni Colony - Wide Angle

Macaroni Colony - Wide Angle

But on more magnification, the “rocky headland” turns out to be a Macaroni Penguin colony, perched on a near-cliff surface.

Macaroni Colony Closeup

Macaroni Colony Closeup

The best explanation WC could get from the trip guides for this mountaineering was that the rock outcrops blow free of snow earliest, giving the birds more time to build a nest, lay and incubate, and then rear a chick. The energy cost of climbing the 200 meters or more and the risk of falling (or having a chick fall) are all quite high. Since both airborne predators have full access to the colony, it can’t be to avoid Skuas and Giant Petrels.

For a bird that can only waddle, it’s a very impressive feat.

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