Dolphin Diets: Do Dolphins Eat Penguins?

do dolphins eat penguins

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Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals in our oceans, and they are also some of the most impressive predators.

They are carnivores that feed mainly on fish, squid, and other crustaceans such as shrimp. But what about penguins? Do dolphins eat penguins?

Dolphins will usually avoid food that is too large for them to consume, so penguins are not suitable for bottlenose dolphins and most other species. However, one species of dolphin, the Orca does feed on penguins.

Do Dolphins Really Eat Penguins?

Most species of dolphin are far too small to consume penguins, so they are not a practical food source for them to hunt and eat.

King penguins can weigh as much as 30 pounds and can be up to 95cm in length, and can be surprisingly defensive when threatened.

As dolphins are incapable of consuming penguins they leave them alone and do not hunt them.

What Kind Of Dolphins Eat Penguins?

There are some kinds of dolphins that do actively hunt, kill and eat penguins. Killer whales, also known as Orca are much larger than all other species of dolphin.

They are also apex predators of the ocean and are more than capable of hunting and eating penguins when given the opportunity.

Penguins live in large colonies, which typically offer them protection from most predators. But when they get hungry, they are forced to get back into the ocean and hunt for food.

This is where unfortunately for them, hungry Orca are waiting for their chance, and they too also live and hunt in pods.

How Do Orcas Hunt Penguins?

Orcas are some of the most effective predators on the planet, and the tactics they use to hunt are simply amazing.

Penguins are fast, agile, and strong swimmers that are no easy task for even a pod of Orcas to catch in the open seas.

However, a successful penguin hunt offers a hefty meal for the Orca, making it a pursuit worth chasing.

Orcas use a number of tactics to hunt penguins, they lurk in the shallow waters waiting for the penguins to enter the water in search of food.

They use “spy-hop” to keep a watchful eye on any penguins that may be entering the water, this is when the Orca pops their head up out of the surface to get a closer look at what is going on.

In deep water, penguins have the advantage as they are able to twist, turn and evade even the most agile of Orcas, so waiting for the penguins to reach shallow waters is the Orca’s best bet, even though this is riskier.

Once the penguins reach shallow waters and return with their food, they are slowed down by the waves, which is when Orcas strike and can catch penguins.

Even for Orcas to consume a penguin, it’s a skill they must learn over time. They need to squeeze the penguin so that its body leaves its feathery suit, like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube (gross!).

Why Do Orca Eat Penguins?

A pod of Orcas needs to consume a lot of calories each day, and hunting penguins is not always the most efficient way of attaining food for them.

They expend a lot of energy whilst hunting penguins, as they are not the easiest prey for them to catch. Their time would be much better-spent hunting seals, fish, and easier prey.

In order for killer whales to get enough sustenance from penguins, they would need to eat quite a few, which means expending more energy than they would like.

However, when needs must, Orcas must take what they can get which sometimes means hunting penguins every once in a while.

They are opportunistic feeders that have been known to hunt just about any marine mammal that crosses their path.

So when they come across a colony of penguins, they certainly are not going to pass up the opportunity, although their time is better spent on larger prey.

Final Thoughts

So, do dolphins eat penguins? Yes, large species such as killer whales will eat penguins when they are available. However, most smaller species of dolphins will not consume penguins.

Most dolphins feed on fish, squid, shrimp, and other crustaceans that are much easier for them to catch and more digestible.

We have to keep in mind that Orca are not actually whales, and are instead a species of dolphins, so technically dolphins do eat penguins to some extent.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned something new today about Orcas eating penguins as well as why most dolphin species don’t.