Penguins may look a little clumsy on land, but beneath the waves they cruise like heatseeking torpedos. To get a clearer picture of the feeding behaviour of gentoo penguins, a team of researchers strapped a specially designed camera onto a male bird in Argentina and released him into the briny shallows. The resulting footage looks like a trailer for a first-penguin shooter game.

The recently released clip filmed in the Beagle Channel off Isla Martillo, in Tierra del Fuego shows the penguin repeatedly plunging into a school of sardines picking off carefully selected fish as he twists and turns with surprising agility and speed. Other penguins also appear in the frame on occasion along with diving cormorants and albatrosses.

In just 53 seconds of penguin-directed action, we get a fairly clear image of just how accomplished these birds are in the water. Gentoo penguins do most of their foraging near the seabed, the Wildlife Conservation Society explained in a press release, but as the footage indicates they will gladly gobble up baitfish when available.

"We were fascinated to see the Beagle Channel seabird community feeding on this amazing shoal of sardines," says Andrea Raya Rey, WCS Argentina associate researcher and staff at CADIC-CONICET, the team that placed the camera on the penguin. "We wrote in many papers that the seabird community in the Beagle Channel rely on sardines but this is the actual proof, and now it is confirmed and with a star behind the camera: the penguin."

A gentoo penguin with a special camera fitted to its back. Image © Sabrina Harris / WCS

The project is part of a collaborative study undertaken by WCS Argentina, together with Antarctic Research Trust, and Tawaki Project that aims to compare the feeding ecology of gentoo penguins of Argentina with yellow-eyed penguins in New Zealand.

The camera was only used for a single foraging trip before it was removed from the penguin by the team who then monitored the breeding success of the nest. "The gentoo continued with its parental duties and taking care of the offspring," Raya Rey explained. 

This study is just one of many penguin projects that the WCS is involved in. The New York-based nonprofit has been collaborating on monitoring the population of Magellanic penguins in Argentina for over thirty years, as well as studying the food needs and spatial use of the marine environment of various species of penguin throughout Patagonia.

To find out more about the WCS and their work, visit their website.