The Macaroni Penguin is a black and white penguin with yellow and black plumes on the top of its head. Macaroni Penguins average about 5 kg (11 lbs) in weight and average 50-70 cm (20-28 in) in height. They eat squid, krill and other crustaceans. Fertile Macaroni Penguins lay two eggs - the first egg laid is ignored by the penguin and usually eaten by ever-present skuas, while the second egg hatches around 34 days after it is laid. They cannot fly, yet they can swim rather efficently.
The Macaroni Penguin population is decreasing most rapidly of all penguin species, with an estimated world population of less than one million breeding pairs. They breed in at least 216 colonies at 50 sites, including southern Chile, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands, Bouvet Island, Prince Edward Islands of South Africa, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands and very locally on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Despite its large population, the Macaroni Penguin has been classified as Vulnerable by BirdLife International, as its population has been reduced by at least 30% over three generations. The main threats to its breeding grounds are those common to all Southern Ocean species, such as the existing and potential impact of commercial fishing, ocean warming and oil pollution.
The name "Macaroni" is said to come from an English Group called "the Macaroni's", who's hats looked the same as a Macaroni Penguin's head. The name is used as a reference to the bird's conspicuous "feather in its cap" in the song Yankee Doodle, in which the subject sticks "a feather in his cap and calls it Macaroni. "Macaroni" at one time being a fancy ("dandy") style of Italian dress widely imitated in England and America.
- BirdLife International (2005).. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 05 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is vulnerable.
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