Macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus), named for their colored crests, are one of six species of crested penguins. Many penguin species, including macaroni penguins, are highly social animals, nesting and feeding in large colonies. Macaroni penguins are categorized as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Species categorized as vulnerable have been shown to have a high risk for extinction in the wild. The number of macaroni penguins quickly declined over the last three generations (36 years), most likely due to climate change and the effects of commercial fisheries in their range. Antarctic krill makes up a large portion of the diet of macaroni penguins, especially during breeding and nesting. In fact, many marine species in the Southern Ocean depend on krill, but there has been an unevenly high concentration of commercial krill fisheries around the Antarctic Peninsula, where many marine species are active. Macaroni penguins are found from the Antarctic Peninsula north to subantarctic regions. Invasive species—such as cats and rats—on subantarctic islands and southern South America also hinder successful breeding of macaroni penguins and many nesting seabirds. Scientists and conservation organizations are working to protect foraging and nesting grounds of the species to hopefully help these penguins thrive for many more generations.
Photo and haiku: Samantha Oester