Diet and Feeding Habits
The species of penguin as well as their habitat plays a role in what they will consume as part of their diet. All of their food sources are found in the water. This includes krill, crustaceans, fish, and squid. They swallow their food whole, relying on spiny elements in the mouth that push the food down their throat. The tongue is also very rough so that the slippery foods they consume don’t escape. The food sources are still alive when they are swallowed.
Penguins will consume food that is close to the surface when they can. They can also dive very deep into the water to find food. Feeding is one activity they made decide to do on their own instead of as part of a group. When they dive, they rely on their flippers and their tail to help them navigate. They are fast swimmers and able to get lots of food at once if they find prime locations. They have a good memory too when it comes to the best hunting locations.
You will notice that different species of penguins have different types of bills. Some are long and thin while others are short and stout. It has to do with the types of foods that they consume. They have a body that is well designed for them to catch food and to also devour it. The black and white coloring of penguins allows them to have the element of surprise too with most of their food sources.
Penguins are opportunistic when it comes to feeding. They will eat both during the day and at night. They rely on their vision to help them find food. They may travel a long distance too if necessary to be able to find enough food. One of the key reasons why penguins will consume as much food as they can when it is plentiful is to store up fat. They may spend many hours every single day finding food. This is especially true in the weeks leading up to mating or molting.
They will count on those fat reserves for periods of time when there isn’t an abundance of food. They will also go through periods where they have to fast. This can include when they are molting as they will remain out of the water until all of the old feathers are gone and the new feathers have emerged. This can take several weeks to be completed.
During the breeding season, there can also be a long period of time when the penguins are around their nest and fasting. Depending on the species of penguin they may fast throughout the process of courting, nesting, and the incubation of the eggs. For mating, the fasting period can be from 50 to 90 days depending on the species.
Parents have to provide food for the young chicks in the beginning, and this means more food finding for them. Both parents take part in offering food to the young chicks. The chicks will stop growing and fast when they are about to lose the juvenile feathers. Once the molt is done they have adult plumage and be responsible for finding their own food.
Fasting limits can be pushed by penguins, and it is very interesting. Sometimes, they have just enough energy left over from reserves to go find food. If they haven’t been able to store enough fat then they may not survive through mating or molting. This is why pollution and other threats to the food sources for penguins in the wild is such a huge threat to their overall ability to survive.