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 vulnerable.
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.
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 period.
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 sea.
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
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