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Gentoo penguin

Pygoscelis papua

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

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.

You can take part in an interactive animal experience with our gentoo penguins

IUCN Status

The IUCN status of the gentoo penguin is least concern.

For more info on classifications visit

  Fun fact Male penguins present females with pebbles as a mating ritual.

Animal class


Conservation status

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




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


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