Using video cameras weighing just 33g and equipped with accelerometers, depth gauges and thermometers, researchers were able to see exactly what the Adelie penguin sees when it goes out to catch krill and other prey in its native Antarctica.
Yuuki Watanabe, of the National Institute of Polar Research in Tokyo, said the team was amazed to discover that the bird adapts its hunting behaviour depending on what it is trying to snare.
Watanabe said the accelerometer - a device also used in mobile phones, tablet computers and games consoles - allowed researchers to precisely measure the bird's head movements and showed how one penguin could catch two krill in under a second.
"Now we know what the Adelie penguin preys on and how much it eats, we can understand how the penguin survives and how it relates to its environment," he said.
The penguin's fragile Antarctic habitat is at risk from climate change, with scientists warning that as pack ice melts, their numbers could fall dramatically.
Watanabe said the tiny cameras and micro equipment had given researchers a much better understanding of how the penguin lives.
"We now understand how much they rely on those fish that inhabit water just below the sea ice, which means that Adelie penguins can only survive in a sea ice environment," said Watanabe.