Chinstrap penguin: Bird of the Week

A bird of the South Pacific and Antarctic, this bold penguin can swim at speeds of up to 20mph.

Sunday, 13 January 2019,
By Caroline Offord
A lone chinstrap penguin walks on snow in the South Shetland Islands. The birds often slide ...
A lone chinstrap penguin walks on snow in the South Shetland Islands. The birds often slide on their stomachs on land, using their feet and flippers to propel themselves.
Photograph by Michael Gore (rspb-images.com)

Their name derives from the distinctive black band that runs from one side of the head under the bill to the other side of the head, resembling a chin strap, making them one of the most easily identified types of penguin.

Other names for the chinstrap penguin are ‘ringed penguin’, ‘bearded penguin’, and ‘stonecracker penguin’ due to their harsh call.

The distinctive chinstrap is clearly visible on this penguin, photographed at Cape Lookout, Elephant Island.
Photograph by Oliver Smart (rspb-images.com)

The chinstrap penguin is a species of penguin which inhabits a variety of islands and shores in the Southern Pacific and the Antarctic Ocean. They live and breed in large colonies – often on large icebergs on the open ocean. They return annually to the same nest site, generally with the same partner. They are the boldest penguin and are most likely to fight other penguins.

They are about two-feet tall and weigh about 5 kilograms (10 pounds). They feed on krill and fish. Like most penguins, chinstrap penguins use their flippers to ‘fly’ underwater at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. On land, they ‘toboggan’ on their stomachs, propelling themselves by their feet and flippers.

The RSPB is part of a group campaigning for a marine reserve around the South Sandwich Islands, a hotspot for chinstrap penguins.

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