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the web of life in southern Africa

Pygoscelis papua (Gentoo penguin)

Witoorpikkewyn [Afrikaans]; Ezelspinguļn [Dutch]; Manchot papou [French]; Eselspinguin [German]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Spheniscidae

Pygoscelis papua (Gentoo penguin) Pygoscelis papua (Gentoo penguin)

Gentoo penguin, Cooper Bay, South Georgia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Gentoo penguin, Mikkelson Harbour, Antarctica. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds on the Antarctic Peninsula and sub-Antarctic islands, heading north in the non-breeding season but rarely venturing more than 100 km from the colony. It is a rare vagrant to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, where it has only recorded once, near Bloubergstrand, Cape Town in 1992.


It mainly eats crustaceans and small fish, doing most of its foraging in stints of 2-4 minutes up to 30 m underwater, rarely descending further down to 150 m below sea level in a seven minute long dive.


Near-threatened due to recent population decreases in the northern part of its distribution range, although some of its colonies further south are increasing in size.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.