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June 18, 2018  |  Login

Magellanic Penguin
Spheniscus magellanicus

What Are They Like?

Magellanic penguins range in size from 24-30 inches (60-76 centimeters) tall and are distinguished by two black bands that appear on their white chests. They live for 25-30 years and, like other penguin species, have rigid wings that allow them to “fly” underwater. There are currently estimated to be about 1.3 million breeding pairs of these penguins worldwide.

Where Do They Live?

They live mostly on islands in order to avoid predators from the mainland and to maximize access to their food supply. Magellanic penguins live in sub-Antarctic habitats such as those found in the Falkland Islands and the southern coast of South America, especially in Chile and Argentina

Did You Know?
Magellanic penguins live for 25-30 years.

How Are Babies Made?

Magellanic penguins mate with the same partner every year. They nest in burrows, which they return to around September to repair and reconstruct. The female lays two eggs in October and both parents take shifts caring for the eggs throughout their incubation period of about 40 days. Both parents continue to care for their chicks to adulthood.

What Do They Eat?

Magellanic penguins eat small fish such as sardines, squid and krill. They usually dive up to 160 feet (50 meters) deep, but can dive up to about 330 feet (100 meters) in search of food. Commercial fishing has had a large impact on penguin populations by decreasing the amount of available food.


What Do They Do?

Flocks of Magellanic penguins travel together when hunting. During mating season, these penguins gather together in breeding colonies. Of all penguin species, Magellanic penguins are the most nervous around humans, often hiding deep in their burrows when tourists arrive to observe them.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps a “Red List” of species in danger worldwide, lists the Magellanic penguin as "threatened." This means that the population has been declining moderately rapidly in recent years and has fluctuated in different parts of its range.

The largest threats to Magellanic penguins are climate change and pollution from oil and gas drilling. Climate change is forcing penguins to swim farther for food than usual, causing starvation among the mates that stay with chicks or eggs waiting for food. Oil and gas drilling cause heavy pollution in the penguins’ habitats, which contribute to population decline.

What's Being Done?

Many birds were getting oiled in shipping lanes; relocating shipping lanes has somewhat reduced this problem. Other conservations actions that have been proposed include monitoring the effect of the Argentinian anchovy fishery on penguin populations and additional efforts to reduce oiling.


Magellanic Penguin chicks at the San Francisco Zoo

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