What Animals Eat Penguins? [Top 15 Predators]

From the icy waters of the Antarctic to the sub-Antarctic islands, predators like the leopard seal and killer whale eat penguins. Besides these, various ocean creatures like sharks, gulls, and skuas are known to hunt and kill penguins.

Moreover, some birds, including giant petrels and Steller’s sea eagles, feed on these flightless birds. Among wildlife enthusiasts, penguins are not only the darlings of wildlife enthusiasts but are also the favored food for many predators. Though penguins may seem like tempting food sources, their critical role in the ecosystem must be recognized and protected.

Here, I’ll explore the different predators that target penguins. Also, I’ll examine how their consumption affects the Antarctic ecosystem. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of penguin predators and learn more about them.

Top 15 Predators of Average Penguins

Penguins Predators

From polar bears to leopard seals, penguins fall prey to many animals across their natural habitats. The predatory behavior of these animals is often fueled by their need for sustenance. Usually, they rely on penguins as a primary food source.

However, the question of who eats penguins has intrigued scientists and wildlife enthusiasts alike for generations. With over 18 different species of penguins inhabiting the southern hemisphere, it’s no surprise that they are a coveted delicacy for many predators.

1. Leopard Seal

The Leopard Seal is a top predator in the Antarctic and Southern Oceans. They are known for their skillful hunting techniques. These seals are highly efficient hunters. They are known to target penguins, which make up a significant portion of their diet.

Leopard seals use their sharp teeth to kill penguins quickly and efficiently. They can consume up to 12 penguins per day.

2. Killer Whale

They are also known as Orcas. These large marine mammals are apex predators known to prey on penguins. Orcas use their intelligence and size to outsmart their prey. They often work together in coordinated attacks to take down larger prey, such as seals and sea lions.

3. Sharks

king penguin

Several species of sharks, including great whites and tiger sharks, have been known to eat penguins. Sharks use their sharp teeth and powerful jaws to kill their prey quickly. They are opportunistic predators and will often attack any prey that presents itself.

4. Giant Petrels

These seabirds are scavengers, but they also hunt live prey, including penguins. They have been observed attacking penguins in the water and on land. Giant Petrels use their sharp beaks to kill their prey and can be quite aggressive.

5. Southern Giant Petrel

These large seabirds are also known to prey on penguins. Especially those that are injured or sick. They are opportunistic predators and will often target weakened or vulnerable prey.

6. Skuas

These birds of prey are found in the southern hemisphere and feed on various prey, including penguins. They attack penguins in groups, using their sharp talons to kill their prey.

7. Gulls

Several species of gulls have been observed feeding penguins, especially the young or sick ones. Gulls are opportunistic predators who often take advantage of any available food source.

8. Sea lions

These marine mammals are opportunistic predators. They have been known to eat penguins when other prey is scarce. They use their size and strength to overpower their prey.

9. Fur seals

These seals are smaller than sea lions. However, they are still capable of preying on penguins. They are known to target young penguins and can be especially devastating to colonies.

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10. Steller’s Sea Eagles

These large birds of prey are found in the northern hemisphere but have been known to venture south to feed on penguins. They have powerful talons and beaks that they use to kill their prey.

11. Northern Giant Petrel

Like its southern counterpart, the Northern Giant Petrel is a scavenger that will also hunt live prey, including penguins. They are opportunistic predators that will target vulnerable or injured prey.

12. Weddell Seal

These seals are known to feed on penguins, especially during the winter months when other prey is scarce. They are highly skilled hunters who can navigate the ice to hunt their prey.

13. Antarctic Fur Seal

These seals are another predator of penguins in the Antarctic. They are opportunistic feeders. They will take advantage of any available food source, including penguins.

14. Arctic Skua

Like its southern counterpart, the Arctic Skua is a bird of prey that will attack and kill penguins. They are known for their aggressive behavior and often chase other birds away from their food source.

15. Antarctic Tern

These birds are another predator of penguins in the Antarctic. They use their sharp beaks to catch and kill small prey, including penguins. Antarctic Terns are highly skilled hunters that can catch their prey in mid-air.

Emperor Penguins and Their Predators: A Case Study


Who eats emperor penguins? Actually, Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguins and are found in the Antarctic region. That’s why they have few natural predators.  But the ones that pose a threat are the Leopard Seal and Orca. These predators are known to attack adult penguins.

Usually, the leopard seal is a particularly skilled hunter. They are known to wait patiently under the ice for penguins before ambushing them. Orcas, on the other hand, use a different hunting technique. Together, they create waves that wash penguins off the ice and into the water, where they’re more vulnerable.

In fact, the Emperor Penguin’s chicks are more vulnerable to predators than their adults. The main predators of Emperor penguin chicks are birds. For example, the Southern Giant Petrel and the South Polar Skua.

The Southern Giant Petrel is a large seabird that feeds mainly on carrion. But they will also attack live prey, including penguin chicks. On the other hand, the South Polar Skua is known to scavenge on dead chicks. But they will also take live chicks if the opportunity arises.

But the important part is that predators such as the Leopard Seal and Orca can pose a significant danger to adult penguins when they are in the water.

Besides, the Southern Giant Petrel and South Polar Skua are the main predators of Emperor Penguin chicks on land. In spite of these challenges, Emperor Penguins thrive in Antarctica.

In order to keep warm and protect their chicks, Emperor Penguins huddle together in large groups. This also makes it harder for predators to target individual chicks.

African Penguins and Their Common Predators: Top 5 Animals

Many predators are attracted to African penguins’ natural habitat, making their lives difficult. The following animals eat African penguins:

1. Kelp gulls

These large gulls are opportunistic predators and scavengers. They prey on African penguins, particularly their eggs and chicks. In fact, a kelp gull can attack or kill a penguin at its nest, stealing eggs and chicks.

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2. Cape fur seals

These seals are one of the main predators of African penguins. The penguin is a common prey species while swimming or resting. With their sharp teeth, Cape fur seals can catch penguins.

3. Carlacals

These medium-sized wild cats are found in some African penguin habitats. Caracals mainly hunt and eat small mammals, including African penguins.

4. Black-backed jackals

These canids are found in some African penguin habitats, particularly on islands. Penguin chicks are often stolen from their nests. These predators also kill penguins on the beach.

5. Large fish

African penguins feed on small fish such as anchovies and sardines. But larger fish, such as sharks and Cape fur seals, can also prey on them.

What Animal Eats Chinstrap Penguins?

The primary predators of chinstrap penguins are leopard seals. They are known for their ability to attack penguins on land and in water. Other predators include killer whales, skuas, and sheathbills. They help maintain the Antarctic ecosystem’s balance. Also, they ensure other species’ survival as well.

In general, chinstrap penguins are small penguin species. They are native to Antarctica and nearby islands. They are primarily preyed upon by larger marine mammals. However, they are also on the target list of many bird species.

Specifically, skua birds have been known to feed on chinstrap penguins, as have giant petrels and southern giant petrels. These birds of prey typically target young or weak individuals, as well as those that are separated from the safety of their colony.

What Animal Only Eats Penguins?

There is no known animal that exclusively feeds on penguins. Even though leopard seals and killer whales feed mostly on penguins, they are not their sole food source. In fact, they have been observed eating other marine life as well.

Even so, no land predators solely eat penguins. They are primarily found in remote and inhospitable areas, such as Antarctica. Therefore, the notion of an animal that only eats penguins is a fallacy and should be regarded as such.

Legality of Eating Penguin Eggs: Who Eats Penguin Eggs?

Well, consuming penguin eggs is illegal in most parts of the world due to their status as a protected species. However, penguins are considered important indicators of the health of the marine ecosystem.


Besides, their eggs are crucial to the survival of their populations. A penguin chick’s growth and development depend on eggs, so their loss can be devastating.

Did you know several predators eat penguin eggs?  The egg lovers are known as skuas, gulls, and giant petrels, these birds are known to prey on penguin eggs by raiding the penguin nest.

Important Laws about Penguin Consumption

Most species of penguins are protected under national and international laws, such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Antarctic Treaty System.

These laws prohibit the taking of penguins and their eggs, and violations can result in fines and other penalties.

Additionally, some species of penguins are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The African and Humboldt penguins are also listed under CITES Appendix II. That means their trade is regulated and monitored to ensure their survival.

Under CITES, countries that are parties to the agreement must regulate the trade of listed species within their territories.

Also, they prohibit the trade of these species unless they are accompanied by the appropriate permits and documentation. The trade-in penguin products, including meat, eggs, feathers, and live animals, are strictly controlled under CITES.

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In addition to CITES, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has also established guidelines for the conservation of penguin populations. Several penguin species are listed as endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Who Eats Penguin’s Meat?

There are a few animals that eat penguins, including some species of seals and birds. But, in terms of human consumption, eating penguin meat is not common or legal in most countries.

In some cultures, particularly among indigenous communities in Antarctica, penguin meat is a traditional food source.

However, such practices are generally prohibited by international treaties and domestic laws. Because of this, most species of penguins are protected and considered endangered or vulnerable.

Besides, there are also practical reasons why penguin meat is not commonly consumed. Penguins have very little body fat, which makes their meat tough and unappetizing. Additionally, they live in some of the world’s most remote and inhospitable regions, making them difficult to hunt and transport.

Who Eats Penguins in Antarctica?

In Antarctica, the main predators of penguins are marine animals such as seals and birds. Leopard seals, for example, are one of Antarctica’s main predators of penguins. They are known to hunt penguins both in the water and on land.

Other animals that prey on penguins in Antarctica include killer whales, skuas, and giant petrels. These birds are known to prey on penguin chicks, eggs, and adult penguins.

However, there have been reports of poaching and illegal hunting by tourists and researchers, violating international and national laws. Any such activity poses a significant threat to the fragile ecosystem of Antarctica and its iconic wildlife.

Who Eats Penguins on Land?

On land, the main predators of penguins are birds, such as skuas and giant petrels. These birds prey on penguin eggs, chicks, and even adult penguins.


These birds are opportunistic predators that feed on carrion and marine animals, including penguins. They are known to scavenge on penguin carcasses and prey on vulnerable penguin chicks.

Skuas are particularly aggressive birds often seen circling penguin colonies. They await an opportunity to raid nests and prey on vulnerable chicks. They are known to attack adult penguins as well.

They attack especially during the breeding season when penguins are busy incubating their eggs or caring for their young. Giant petrels are another type of bird that preys on penguins on land.

Does Any Country Eat Penguins?

No evidence suggests that any country regularly consumes penguins as a food source. Some indigenous peoples in the polar regions may have historically hunted penguins for sustenance. But modern conservation efforts have made it illegal to hunt or consume penguins in most countries. They are primarily hunted for their oil, feathers, and skin.


A penguin is a cute and charismatic bird and an important food source for many predators. These animals, such as leopard seals and orcas, rely on penguins as part of their diet. Thus, they can survive in the harsh conditions of Antarctica.

However, some may find it unsettling to think of cute birds being eaten, but it’s a natural part of the Southern Ocean’s food chain and ecosystem. In order to protect these ecosystems, we should understand and respect their delicate balance.

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