Small Animals

What do penguins eat?

Penguins must store fat to stay warm, and they sometimes travel long distances to find the food that will nourish them , as well as their babies.

As you can imagine, it's important that these black and white birds get plenty to eat! So what do these creatures consume when it's time for a meal?

Penguins get their food from the water, and exactly what they eat depends on their species. For example, king penguins, known for the bright orange and yellow feathers around their necks, eat mostly fish and squid. Of the fish they eat, the majority are lanternfish, which are able to give off their own light through a chemical process with a fancy name--bioluminescence!

Yellow-eyed penguins, named for the color of their eyes and the yellow stripe that runs around their heads, eat fish such as blue and red cod, as well as arrow squid, which have fins that together form an arrow shape when spread!

Many penguins eat krill. Krill are crustaceans, which means they are segmented, they have two pair of antennae, and their skeletons form a hard shell on the outside of their bodies. They look like shrimp, and they're small, often less than one inch long. Along with squid, krill, cod and lanternfish, penguins may eat crabs, other small fish like sardines, and cephalopods such as octopi.

Penguins are great swimmers, a talent that comes in handy when they're hunting for the food that helps keep them strong!

Further Information

Penguins feed their babies in a very interesting way, they regurgitate, or cough up, food that's in the stomach. Penguins will then use their beaks to move the food to the mouths of their babies. Some penguins regurgitate a milky oil for their babies to swallow, while others regurgitate pieces of food, such as krill.


Penguin Vocabulary. New England AquariumMurray, Sue. Yellow-Eyed Penguin. International Penguin Conservation Work GroupHouston, Dave. Yellow-Eyed Penguin. New Zealand Penguins