What Do Penguins Eat?

penguins-eat Credit: Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Penguins generally eat fish, squid and krill, though their diet depends on the species. Generally, penguins living close to the equator eat more fish, while penguins in arctic climates rely on squid and krill for sustenance.

There are five types of penguin diets, which helps reduce competition among species. The great penguin diet, which include king penguins, is made up 80 percent of fish, especially lanternfish. Emperor penguins also eat crustaceans and cephalopods. Brush-tailed penguins, which includes chinstrap and gentoo penguins, eat Antarctic krill, glacial squid and silverfish. Little penguins, which include northern and little blue penguins, feed mainly on squid, fish and small sea animals, and they generally don't dive any deeper than six feet. Crested penguins, such as rockhoppers and royal penguins, dine primarily on krill as well as small aquatic prey such as squid and octopus. Yellow-eyed penguins like to eat cephalopods such as the arrow squid and small fish, whereas banded penguins, such as African and Humboldt penguins, eat sardines, cuttlefish and small crustaceans.

Penguins feed at sea, usually within 50 to 60 feet of the surface, though some penguins will dive as far as 100 feet for their preferred food. Their hunting areas range from nine miles to 559 miles, depending on the species. They have spiny tongues and powerful jaws, which allow them to catch their prey in their bills and swallow them whole.