Domitrius Barkwood

Posted On:

What Do Penguins Eat?

Heartgard Plus Chewables For Medium Dogs 26-50lbs (Green) 12 Doses

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

By now you have probably seen one or two different kinds of penguins because these aquatic birds are so popular in aquariums and zoos.  These animals live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere and most of them do live in cold climates.  There are a few penguin species that do live in warmer regions but all penguin species of the Spheniscidae family are semi-aquatic and spend half their life inside and half their life outside of the sea.

 There are 17 different penguin species.  The biggest penguin specie is the emperor penguin and adults weigh about 1.1m in height and can weigh around 35kg.  The smallest penguin species is the little blue penguin or fairy penguin and it is only 33cm tall with a weight of just 1kg.

 What Do Penguins Eat?

Penguin species can vary quite a lot in size and can look quite different but they all share the same basic food type.  These birds are all carnivores and consume only meat.  They will, however, eat a variety of meat types such as the following;


Krill are tiny creatures that look a lot like shrimp.  They are about 2 inches long and are found in all oceans.  These organisms usually travel in large groups.  Krill is a valuable food source for a huge variety of ocean species and many aquatic birds.  

 All species of penguins do love to eat krill.  It is estimated that the Adellie penguin specie consumes about 1,500,000,000 kg of krill every year.


80% of the penguin’s diet consists of fish.  Fish is a very valuable food source for penguins because the food helps them build lots of body fat so they can survive harsh winters and fasting periods.

 Penguins will catch and eat any type of fish they can find.  It is estimated that the entire breeding population of Adelie penguins eat about 115,000 metric tons of fish every year.

 These aquatic birds will catch and eat almost any type of fish but they are particularly fond of fish species like silverfish, lantern fish, sprats, pilchards, mullets, anchovies, sardines, and others.  


There are over 67,000 species of crustaceans found in our oceans.  These animals are identified by their hard exoskeleton and they can greatly vary in size.  Penguins enjoy eating all sorts of crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, barnacles, and a great many others.  Their hard beaks can shatter hard shells of these insect-like creatures although many are captured and eaten whole.


Amphipod is tiny crustaceans.  They usually range from 1 to 340mm in size and there are quite a few different species of these larvae.  Smaller penguin species like the fairy penguin do enjoy eating these tiny amphipods although lager penguins have been known to eat the larger amphipods they can find.


Penguins will also eat and swallow small rocks.  They do not digest these rocks but instead, rocks help them digest harder foods like crustaceans by grinding down these foods into tinier pieces so the penguin can digest these foods.

 Diet Variations

Different types of penguin species do show a preference for certain foods.  Emperor penguins, for example, focus mainly on fish where smaller penguins focus more on krill.  In harsh conditions, penguins may try to eat other types of foods such as insects. 

But all in all, they won’t consume any plant matter and will stick to a carnivore diet.

 How to Feed Penguins?

Penguins are popular in zoos and aquariums because they are fairly easy to keep.  As long as you offer these animals a sufficient amount of fish, krill, or crustaceans, they will be healthy and happy.

 How Much Do Penguins Eat?

The amount of food a penguin eats depends on its species and the season.  In fasting times or wintertime, some species can get by with much fewer foods while others, like male emperor penguins, won’t eat at all so they can take care of their eggs.

 All penguins will consume more food in autumn than other months of the year so they can gain weight and store enough fat for harsh winter months.

 Adult emperor penguins require 2 – 5kg of food per day but smaller species will consume smaller amounts of foods.  

 What Do Baby Penguins Eat?

Baby penguins are called chicks.  These animals rely on their parents for survival for the first few months of their lives.  

When penguin chicks hatch they will be kept in a ‘creche’ along with other penguins while their parents hunt for food.  The parents catch and consume the fish, digest it, and then feed the chick by regurgitating the food back to the chick.  

 What Do Wild Penguins Eat?

In the wild, penguins can only eat foods they find in their natural habitat.  Certain foods might be limited during certain seasons. 

But all in all, penguins will catch and eat any of their food sources such as krill, squid, crustaceans, and more and eat these on the spot.

 How Do Penguins Hunt For Food?

Penguins hunt for food on sight.  They will dive right in and will instantly chance any foods they deem worthy.  Since these birds travel and commute as a family, they can, however, have a few different types of hunting strategies such as the following;

 Group foraging – they hunt as a group to get schools of fish to swim closely together so they can easily pick them off.

 Attacks from below – they can catch fish in any way but many do prefer to catch fish from below since this allows them to press fish up against the ice.

 Do Penguins Eat Seaweed?

Penguins do not eat seaweed.  They are carnivores and rely on the protein and fats in fish and other aquatic creatures to survive.

 Do Penguins Eat Turtles?

Penguins are not very likely to eat turtles but they can eat small hatchlings if they do happen upon a nest.  Once these hatchlings grow too big or their shells harden too much, the penguin will have a tough time consuming the turtle.

 Do Penguins Eat Meat?

Yes, penguins are carnivores and consume only meat.  They will eat meat from fish, crustaceans, and many other aquatic creatures.

 Penguins play an important part in the ecosystem and they deserve all the care they can get now that global warming has reduced their natural habitat.  These animals are relatively simple to care for and it is entirely possible to help them survive harsh winters by offering the right foods.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc, or its affiliates.

Leave a Comment