Scientific name: Eudyptes chrysolophus
Most abundant of all the world's penguins (There are an estimated total population of 12 million breeding pairs of Macaroni penguins.), the Macaroni is also the largest of the six species of crested penguins. (genus Eudyptes). Macaronis inhabit the maritime Antarctic and subantarctic regions with large breeding populations found on South Georgia Island (5.4 million pairs) and other islands of the Scotia Arc, on Heard Island, Marion Island, Isles Crozet (2.2 million pairs) and Kerguelen (1.8 million pairs), and the Falkland Islands. Though numerous, Macaroni penguins may be threatened by the increasing fishing industry and are vulnerable to oil spills.
This penguin was named by the early English explorers. In the mid 18th century, a young man who wore flashy feathers in his hat was called a "Macaroni". This is also the origin for the words to "Yankee Doodle" sung during the Revolutionary War to poke fun at the poorly dressed Continental Army. The English explorers thought the yellow feathers of this penguin was like a fancy young man called a "macaroni". Description
The adult Macaroni Penguin may reach a length of around 28 in (71 cm) and weigh around 12 lb (5.5 kg). The head, chin, throat and upperparts are black, while the underparts are white. The flippers are black on the upper surface, but mainly white underneath. The large bill is orange and the eyes are red. There is a patch of bare skin from the base of the bill to the eye. The legs and feet are pink. The male and female are similar in appearance, although the former tend to be slightly larger.Diet
The diet of the Macaroni Penguin consists of a variety of crustaceans, squid and fish. During chick-rearing, foraging for food is generally conducted on a daily basis, with adults returning to the nest site before dark. Macaroni Penguins normally forage at depths of 15 to 70 metres (49 to 230 ft), but have been recorded diving down to 100 metres (330 ft) on occasions. Some night foraging does occur, but these dives are much shallower, ranging from only 3 to 6 metres (9.8 to 20 ft) in depth. Dives rarely exceed two minutes in duration.Predators
The Macaroni Penguin's predators consist of birds and aquatic mammals. Leopard Seals are the main predator for Macaroni Penguins when they are in the water. Birds, especially skuas and sheathbills, prey on Macaroni Penguin eggs and young chicks.Moulting
Macaroni Penguins moult once a year, a process in which they replace all of their old feathers. Before moulting, they spend around two weeks fattening themselves up because moulting requires much energy. During moulting, they do not feed because without feathers they cannot go in the water to forage for food. The process typically takes from three to four weeks, which they spend sitting ashore. Once they are finished moulting, they go back to sea. In the spring they return to their colonies in order to mate.Breeding
Macaroni penguins build a crude nest by scraping a shallow hole in mud or gravel among rocks. Macaronis usually kick the first-laid egg out of the nest soon after the second egg is laid and only one egg ever hatches; a highly unusual trait for birds but not for penguins. The first egg laid is also smaller and less likely to hatch. It is also often lost to predators and fighting that occurs in the large breeding colonies. The second egg is larger and more likely to hatch. The incubation, keeping the egg warm, is done by both male and female in long shifts. The egg usually hatches within 33 to 37 days.
The male cares for the newly hatched chick for 23 to 25 days while the female brings food daily. At this time chicks have a down covering and they form groups with other chicks called "creches" for warmth and protection. The parents will feel them every 1 to 2 days until they have their adult feathers and are ready to go on their own. This takes place in about 60 to 70 days. In South Africa:
This bird can be confused with Rockhopper Penguin but the eyebrows of the Macaroni Penguin meets on the forehead while that of Rockhopper does not.
As to the bird in the photos which was taken on Tuesday 3 March 2009 at Brandfontein beach close to Agulhas, Western Cape, South Africa:
Although this is the 13th record of this species (based on my [Trevor Hardaker] research through the available literature) for the subregion, it is certainly the first twitchable bird ever
The first confirmed record of this species for Southern Africa was in
February 1974 at Kelso in KZN. This was followed by a number of Western Cape records with a bird at Cape Agulhas in April 1978, one at Bakoven in April 1980, one at Ryspunt in March 1982, one at Platboompunt beach in February 1983, one at Danger Point in February 1986, one at Olifantsbos in February 1987, one at Rooikrans in March 1999, one about 45 nautical miles west of Hout Bay in September 1999, one at Gansbaai in February 2005 and one in Mossel Bay in April 2006. The last record was from Eerste River in the Eastern Cape in February 2007.Sources
Penguins around the world: http://www.siec.k12.in.us/west/proj/penguins/mac.html
Wildlife of Antarctica: http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/wildlife/penguins/macaroni.shtml
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Southern African Rare Bird News Report Monday, 02 March 2009 – Trevor Hardaker