Emperor Penguin Predators: Who Eats Emperor Penguins? (2024)

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What Is The Emperor Penguin’s Biggest Predator?

Killer whales (Orcinus orca), leopard seals, and southern giant petrels all are the biggest predators of emperor penguins.

Killer Whales are at the top of the food chain and are one of the most potent predators in the world. This predator reaches heights of 23 to 32 feet and weighs up to 6 tonnes.

To get at their preferred piece of penguin breast meat, they either push their victim over and chase after it or break through a layer of floating ice from below. Being picky feeders, they take off the skin and feathers to get the breast flesh.

The Leopard seal is the second largest species of seal in the Antarctic. This ferocious penguin predator can reach heights of 10 to 11.5 feet, weigh up to 840 pounds, and have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years in the wild.

It hunts its prey using its long fangs and strong jaws. With its blubber or thick layer of fat, this earless sea leopard with an elongated head and short whiskers can withstand staying in the chilly waters for an extended period of time while it watches for birds to jump off the ice and into the ocean.

The southern giant petrels hunt and scavenge aggressively whenever an opportunity arises, feeding on both land and water. Even carrion, or the decaying meat of deceased animals, is consumed by it.

The gigantic petrels feast on abandoned newborn chicks, penguin eggs, and even injured adult penguins that are unable to defend themselves where there are breeding colonies of penguins.

Other Emperor Penguins’ Predators

The different predators of the emperor penguins have been explained below:

Sea Lion

A sea lion can chase a penguin and go between 30 and 56 km/h in water. As it gallops on land to hunt the bird, its hind flippers have the ability to rotate forward.

The sea lion takes its prey by the neck once it has passed away before diving back into the water to begin eating.

Antarctic Fur Seal

This penguin predator, which is primarily found in the Antarctic region, has a long neck and a pointed muzzle. It walks or stands up using its flippers.

With females being smaller than males, this pinniped, which is closely related to the sea lion, may grow to a length of 6.5 feet and weigh between 90 and 215 kilograms.

They primarily eat krill, fish, and squid, though the males occasionally devour penguins. It can go at speeds of up to 20 km/h on land and even quicker on the water, which facilitates the search for penguins.

South Polar Skua

This seabird predator breeds in the Antarctic region and mostly preys on penguin eggs and young chicks.

Inexperienced or careless penguin pairings may have their eggs or chicks stolen by skuas who choose to dwell on or close to the breeding colony of penguins. They typically attack in pairs, one acting as a distraction while the other committing theft.


In the absence of their usual prey, such as frogs, birds, and rabbits, these small to medium-sized mammals would frequently chase penguins.

Foxes have a natural tendency to kill more than they actually need for a meal in order to store food for the future; this is known as surplus killing. The number of penguins would drastically decline if foxes lived on islands where there were penguins.


Sheathbill, a little bird with white feathers, is the next species that prey on penguins. Although it is not a powerful predator, it will eat a frail penguin, an abandoned chick, or an egg.


Many people consider ferrets to be pets, however, the penguin colony where they live is endangered by them. Ferrets can kill something larger than themselves and typically more than they need to.

Great White Shark

One of the largest predators in the water is the great white or white shark. This penguin predator can reach lengths of 20 feet and weighs 5000 lbs, with females being larger than males.

Depending on what is available in the area, it may prey on a wide range of species, including fish, dolphins, seals, turtles, and seabirds. It also consumes penguins on occasion.

What Do Emperor Penguins Prey On?

Most penguins eat krill, a Euphausiids family crustacean that resembles a shrimp. Each penguin species bears a distinct preference that adds variety to their diets, reducing competition among them.

The emperor penguins can dive to astounding depths and hold their breath for up to 30 minutes. This makes it the ideal candidate for squid and fish predation.

Since their bodies need to retain extra fat to get them through the breeding season, emperor penguins do not eat any plants from the land or the sea.

According to a study by Antarctic Science, fish makes up 78% of the mass of the diet of Emperor penguins and up to 89% of all the seafood they consume comes from the Antarctic silverfish.

Crustaceans typically make up roughly 10% of the Emperor penguin’s diet and squid even less, however exact amounts fluctuate by season.

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Emperor Penguin Predators: Who Eats Emperor Penguins? (2024)


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