Do Seals Eat Penguins: Yes, Here’s What Else They Do to Them

Do seals eat penguins? Well, we won’t necessarily like to think of penguins as being in the food chain. But the reality is that there are animals out there that do dine on penguins.

So in this article, we’re thoroughly answering the question do seals eat penguins. Let’ start with the quick answer, then we’ll go through some of the aspects of seals eating penguins…

Yes, seals do eat penguins. Seals are carnivorous mammals and predators. Some varieties of seals such as fur seals and leopard seals regularly eat penguins on land and in the sea. A major part of their diet comprises penguins and other small Antarctic creatures.

Seals are equipped with specialized hunting equipment, like; powerful jaws, a fast swimming speed, and special infrared vision eyesight to support night vision in deeper regions of the ocean.

They can dive almost 1,970 feet below the ocean surface to catch their prey.

Seals have also been known to call upon the help of other seals to help them in their hunt. However, leopard seals usually hunt alone. Unfortunately, penguins will have difficulty flying away from a seal predator.

Do seals eat penguins: the seal’s diet

Seals are one of those animals that are very skilled predators. They are carnivorous mammals and prey on warm-blooded animals mostly. This does include penguins, but not solely penguins. A variety of other animals are included as part of the overall seal diet:

  • Small fish are a major portion of the seal’s diet. Diving up to nearly 2,000 feet below the surface enables them to catch and kill a variety of fish.
  • Squids and octopuses are a major part of a seal’s diet. They’re often caught underwater and the seal, after hunting them brings them back on the shore to dismember and eat them.  
  • Birds are also sometimes hunted and killed by seals. Penguins are birds, but seals often kill other types of birds resting on ice shelves. The seal hides under the ice and as soon as the bird approaches the water, it reacts quickly to catch it and eat it
  • Aquatic crustaceans, mollusks, and other small marine creatures are also eaten by seals. Creatures such as crabs and lobsters can be crushed with powerful seal jaws and eaten
  • Penguins form a large part of a seals diet, particularly leopard seals, and fur seals, they will play, eat, or even mate with the penguin in different ways.
seals mainly eat fish

How seals stalk penguins

Seals are ruthless carnivorous predators. They feed upon many kinds of small and harmless animals, including penguins.

Seals can swim much faster than penguins, so their approach to killing a penguin is simply to hunt it down using its much faster swimming speed.

Seals have specialized swimming structures; its reptile-like face provides an aerodynamic body, coupled with its webbed flippers. However, it is not as agile on land.

Seals can swim up to 18mph and penguins can average 4-7 mph, so you can see that a seal has a good chance of catching a penguin in its sights.

Also, seals can be cunning hunters, hiding in the water until a penguin passes by close enough that it can swim a short distance and grab for its feet.

After catching the penguin, the seal will proceed to beats the penguin against the shoreline or surface of the water until the penguin is exhausted Then it eats the penguin, usually after taking it to shore.

seals brutally play with penguins

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Which seals eat penguins?

Leopard seals and fur seals are the most reported seals observed assaulting and eating penguins.

  • Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) more commonly known as sea leopard, is one of the best sea predators and has powerful teeth to catch and kill a penguin. These predators are about 10 feet long and usually weigh around 1300 lb.
  • Fur seals (Arctocephalus) are particularly likely to catch and eat penguins and are often observed assaulting and exploiting penguins along with penetration and copulation, before killing and eating the penguin.

Why do seals eat penguins?

Seals hunt and eat penguins mostly to live and to satiate the need for sufficient and ongoing energy and nutrients.

But we also know that seals sometimes hunt smaller penguins to satisfy their instincts as well as their cravings, as they not only feed on the penguins but are often seen to brutally play with the penguins and assault them.

Sometimes, it ends up ripping the pitiful penguin apart because of their merciless approach.

Where do seals catch penguins?

Seals spend most of the time under the water and therefore catch the majority of their prey there. It lives on the ice as well so can hunt and mate with females. Therefore, seals catch on land and in particular underwater where their speed is much faster than penguins.

A seal can attack a penguin in the water and on land too

When do seals eat penguins?

A lone penguin is far less safe either in water or on the shore, and therefore it’s much safer for these birds to travel in groups.

Seeing a penguin alone is the best time for predators like seals to attack them compared to the confusion offered by a group of penguins.

Metabolically, the seal usually kills and eats the penguin under the influence of its predatory stimulus and the scarce availability of other food sources.

Do seals play with the penguins?

Some seals have ominous ways to amuse themselves when they may not actually be that hungry.

Leopard seals, particularly young leopard seals play with penguins by chasing them into the water. They do this again and again until the penguin becomes exhausted. This is often done to sharpen the hunting skills of younger seals. It’s largely a training exercise to enable them to become more agile and quick-witted. 

do seals eat penguins

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Do seals mate with penguins?

Seals like the leopard seal and fur seal do mate with penguins forcefully and even eat the penguin after. This brutal act has been reported several times, and it seems to be done mostly for pleasure and to vent frustration.

Some incidents reported by researchers are listed below;

  • A group of scientists on The Sub-Antarctic Marion Island noticed this happening numerous times that fur and leopard seals were brutally mating and assaulting king penguins.
  • In a video recorded by a group of researchers, 4 cases of sexual assault with male or female penguins were observed. A seal, probably a leopard seal, chased, pinned, and copulated several times with a penguin. However, three of the four penguins were released to rejoin the penguin group
  • In some cases, the merciless and frustrated fur seals were observed being physically abusive and even killed the penguin after copulating with them.

Does predation affect the penguin population?

The eating of penguins by seals is a typical form of predation and it’s common for seals to eat penguins. The decline in the penguin’s availability has become of regional …and global consideration in recent times.

Penguins are an endangered species of the Antarctic region and predation is the major factor causing this decline. Penguins are frequently killed and eaten by predators like fur seals, leopard seals, elephant seals, and other ground and marine predators.

Do seals eat whales?

Seals are unable to hunt and eat whales, alone or in groups. Whales generally are too large a mammal for seals to feasibly hunt and take to shore to eat. Even baby whales are too large for them to consider as potential prey

Do seals eat barnacles?

Seals are able to use their sharp teeth and strong jaws to easily feed on a large variety of hard-shelled animals. They regularly dine on crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, crayfish, prawns, and shrimp. As well as krill, woodlice, barnacles, and others.

The crabeater seal is known to target and hunt mainly krill. The ringed seal mainly focuses on crustaceans.

To finish

I hope this has given you some insight into the question do seals eat penguins. Nature can often be a brutal world, and there is far more to learn about it. Why not check out my other articles. Such as what do skunks eat, or why is wood brown.


A Certified Ecologist and an Entomologist, Michael has been interested in all aspects of Nature for many years. It's only now he's decided, along with his partner Fran, to begin documenting what he knows.

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