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Gentoo penguin

Pygoscelis papua

Gentoo penguin

There are 17 species of penguin in the world. The gentoo penguin is the third largest member of the penguin family, after the emperor and king penguin and is the fastest underwater swimming bird. This penguin can reach speeds of up to 22.4 miles per hour.

All penguin species are found in the southern hemisphere. Gentoo penguins are found in the Falklands, South Georgia, Kerguelen, Marion, Macquarie and the Antarctic peninsula.

During breeding season, a nest of stones, grass and moss is constructed. The male presents the female penguin with a pebble and if she accepts they will mate.

Belfast Zoo’s penguin colony can be seen on their ‘pebble beach’ or you can admire their skills at the underwater viewing area. They share their area with our rockhopper penguins. 

We have a total of 41 gentoo penguins.

Animal class


Diet - Piscivore
The gentoo penguin eats small plankton, squid and fish.

The gentoo penguin can be up to 80 centimetres long and can weigh up to six kilograms.

The gentoo penguin is found in the open sea. It breeds on coastal plains on temperate and Antarctic islands.

Conservation status
Gentoo penguins are protected by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and received near threatened status on the IUCN Red List in 2007.

Gentoo penguins are threatened by pollution to their habitat, along with disturbance from humans. On land, birds such as skuas and gulls will steal eggs. Birds of prey, such as caracara falcons will take small chicks.

Current population
The gentoo penguin population is increasing in Antarctica, but are declining in other areas.

Zoo population
There is an ESB for gentoo penguins. There are around 775 of these penguins living in zoos across the world.