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Macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) are a species of crested
penguin first described from the Falkland Islands and are one of six
species in the genus Eudyptes. Found throughout the sub-Antarctic they
are named for the yellow feathers sticking out of the side of their
heads which, to the early sailors who discovered them, looked like a
flamboyant style of dress common in the 18th century known as
Maccaronism made famous by the song ‘yankee doodle’.

Macaroni penguins have a varied diet consisting of crustaceans, squid
and fish which will vary with locality and with season. It is thought
that krill account for around 90% of their food during the breeding
season and globally macaroni penguins are thought to consume
approximately 9.2 million tonnes of krill per year. Birds on South
Georgia forage as far as 50 km off shore and typically make short dives
of a couple of minutes’ duration to depths of between 15-70 m.

Thought to be the most abundant species of penguin worldwide, on South
Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands there are currently approximately 1
million pairs with the largest colonies being on Bird Island and the
Willis Islands. Unfortunately, populations both globally and in South
Georgia are in decline with the South Georgia population declining by
50% from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s. This has led them to being
classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red
List as Threatened.

On South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands actions have been taken to
support their conservation through the designation of a 1 million km2
Marine Protected Area. This includes measures to prevent competition
for food such as the designation of areas closed to all fishing activity
within 12 nm of land and a seasonal closure of the krill fishery in the
summer months when the penguins are rearing chicks and at their most


Macaroni penguins breed in large raucous colonies and are highly social.
This has led to the development of a great range of visual and vocal
displays which peak during the breeding period which starts in late
October. In what is known as the ‘ecstatic display’ birds go through a
highly choreographed routine of bowing, extending their head and neck
upward until near vertical before waving their head from side to side
and braying loudly.

Nest Building

Eggs are laid in early November in a shallow scrape in the ground lined
with a few stones or pebbles. When these are in short supply, they are
often ‘borrowed’ from a neighbour leading to frequent squabbles adding
more to the noise and commotion in the densely packed colonies. Bill
jousting, pecking and flipper whacking are common sights.


Like many penguin species, females usually lay two eggs each season, but
uniquely in macaroni penguins the second egg is much larger than the
first (in other species of penguin it is usually the first egg which is
larger). Once the second egg is laid, the first is discarded and is
unlikely to survive. Parents share incubation duties, taking it in turn
to go to sea to feed. Nevertheless, the prolonged fasting still takes
its toll and adults can lose around a third of their body weight in this

Chick rearing

When the chick is born it has no feathers and is highly vulnerable to
cold and if left unattended would be easy prey for skua and giant
petrels. In the first few weeks of life the male penguin cares for the
newly born chick at the nest and the female brings food to it every two
to three days. After this time, the chicks have grown a few more
feathers and are to able stray away from their parents a little more and
form crèches to keep warm and stay protected. At around two months, the
chicks will have grown their adult feathers and will be ready to go to

Technical details:

Layout Bee Design

Photography Andy Black

Printer Cartor Security Printing

Process Stochastic Lithography

Perforation 13½ x 13¼ per 2cms

Stamp size 28 x 42mm

Sheet Layout 10

Release date 25 September, 2017

Production Co-ordination Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd

The WWF initials and Panda device © 1986 WWF, with the authorisation of
WWF, registered Trademark owner.

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