Did You Know ?
Penguins eat the most readily available, high-energy food they can find
and easily swallow.
2. The diet of Adelie Penguins changes when whales are present because the whales eat the same thing but eat much more than do the penguins.
3. Adelie Penguin diet differs depending on the habitat where they are foraging. For example they eat different fish in shallow water comapred to deep water.
One way to determine what kind of fish penguins eat, is to put a tray where they will build their nests. Over the season, they will poop into the tray. At the end, we wash what is in the tray to find the otoliths. Kind of like panning for gold. Otoliths are a part of fish that take the longest to digest.
Knowing what a bird eats helps us to understand how they live and where they have to go to find food. This is important because to protect a species population we need to conserve and protect its food source.
know what a penguin eats, at least during the summer, from watching what
passes from a parent to its chick, or what the parent regurgitates onto
the ground. At other times of the year, we have to capture penguins and
cause them to regurgitate into a bucket. During most of the year the Adélie’s
diet is composed mainly of small fish. When fish are not easily available
or require extra effort to find, they eat krill and squid.
A scientific net being pulled from an ice-covered sea, using the frame at the stern of the ship. This net is put into the ocean and then, using an electronic signal, is opened only when it reaches the depth at which the scientists want to catch fish. Photo courtesy Jose Torres.
These are minke whales, the smallest baleen whale (only about 25 feet long!). Like the Adélie Penguin they occur in pack-ice covered waters, and they eat the same food as do Adélies, both fish and krill. However, one whale in a day eats about 2000 times more food than one penguin.
This is not the usual way that Adelie Penguins eat fish, but this fish was too large to be easily swallowed while the penguin was swimming. In fact, this penguin had to drag the fish onto the ice flow, but it could not eat it before a skua swooped down and swiped it away.
These are lantern fish, which live in deep water. Adélie Penguins eat a lot of these during the winter.
Here is an Antarctic silverfish. Adélie Penguins eat lots of these during the summer. It is the most abundant small fish in shallow coastal waters around Antarctica, and also its shape makes it easy for Adelies to swallow, head first.
This parent is feeding its chick some pink stuff, which we know, by its color, is krill. The dark spots in this pink mass passing from the parent into the chick’s mouth are the krill’s eyes (which are black).
This parent had caught so much food that it spilled some on the ground while feeding it’s very small chick (the chick’s mouth was too small!!!). It’s pink, so it’s krill. Sometimes the parents regurgitate partly digested fish onto the ground.