Do Seals Eat Penguins?

antarctic fur seal arctocephalus gazella and king 73PBUYU scaled e1619815867370

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Yes, the Seals eat penguins. Most penguins live in and around Antarctica – but so do many big seals. Unfortunately, all seals are carnivores, so some of them do actually eat penguins.

Which Seals Eat Penguins?

antarctic fur seal arctocephalus gazella and king 73PBUYU scaled e1619815867370
An Antarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus gazella, on the seashore, and a group of King penguins, Aptenodytes patagonicus walking in single file.

There are many species of seals that share a habitat with a variety of penguin species – and often they live side by side quite happily. However there are a few places in the world where seals and penguins clash – and the result isn’t good for the penguins.

Quite often the penguins aren’t eaten whole and are killed in a painful and slow manner – not something that is easy to watch. Seals are very greedy predators – but often don’t even eat the animals they kill – which seems like a terrible waste.

Leopard Seals: Antarctica

These large seals live on sea ice around the continent of Antarctica – although they can be seen around Australia and Patagonia as vagrants. They are the second-largest seal (after the Elephant Seal) and are known to hunt penguins regularly.

They eat a wide variety of penguins including king, rockhopper, gentoo, emperor and chinstrap penguins – catching them in the water as they start on their own search for dinner. They grab them by their flippers and rather than swallow them alive, they flail them about on the water’s surface first.

Antarctic & Subantarctic Fur Seals: Antarctica & South Georgia

These fur seals are the most widespread fur seals and come into contact with a lot of different species of penguin as a result. However, it is usually only the adult males who will feed on penguins – the females stick with the more normal diet of fish and squid. They hunt penguins – usually macaroni and gentoo penguins – both in the sea and on land, similarly to sea lions.

Brown Fur Seals: Southern Africa & Australia

The Brown Fur Seal is known to hunt penguins and other sea birds – but the penguins have an extra special bonus. The fur seals are often seen waiting to catch the penguins (African Penguins) off the shoreline as they return from hunting. This way, they don’t only get the penguin; they get a belly full of fish too. Sometimes though – they don’t eat the penguin itself – they just eat the stomach contents?

Australasian Fur Seals: Australia & New Zealand

A different species of fur seal is also found off the coast of southern Australia and New Zealand. These will also eat penguins as part of their normal catch – although squid and fish usually make up the largest part of their diet.

Sea Lions Are Technically Seals Too

In the seal family (Pinnipedia) there are both seals and sea lions – all within the same families. For example, the Brown Fur Seal is more closely related to sea lions than they are to the Antarctic Fur Seal. They are slightly different in appearance and locomotion where sea lions are able to move on land more easily (you won’t see seals doing tricks at the zoo) – but they are biologically identical.

Strangely though – although they are called sea ‘lions’ they are more closely related to dogs than they are big cats. However, just like cats and dogs – they eat meat and several of these sea lions also eat penguins:

South American Sea Lion (Patagonia)

These large sea lions found all around the coast of South America will eat many prey including several species of penguin. They also eat pelicans and fur seals. They will feed both on land and in the ocean – sometimes working alongside dolphins to share prey.

New Zealand Sea Lion (New Zealand)

Also known as Hooker’s Sea Lion (and one of the rarest sea lions on the planet) – this large predator eats a wide and varied diet – including penguins. They will also even eat New Zealand Fur Seals.

Australian Sea Lions (Australia)

These sea lions will eat anything in the ocean – including penguins (most commonly the local Little penguins). They will also eat octopus, crustaceans and even sharks. They aren’t so picky.

What is the Diet of Penguins and Crocodiles?

Penguins have a diverse diet consisting mainly of fish, squid, and krill. Their crocodile diet clarified; these reptiles are opportunistic predators and primarily feed on fish, birds, and small mammals. While penguins thrive in icy waters, crocodiles prefer freshwater or brackish habitats, adapting their diet accordingly.

Do Seals Eat Penguins All Over The World?

king penguins V92L3JU scaled e1619814544942
King Penguins heading to the water in the Falkland Islands

There are 17-20 species of penguin in the world (depending on your sources) and all of them live in the southern hemisphere.

There are no wild penguins living north of the equator. There are plenty of seals living north of the equator – but they couldn’t eat penguins even if they wanted to – because they just aren’t there.

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