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Humboldt penguin

Scientific Name: Spheniscus humboldti

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Humboldt penguins have a white front with a brown/black head and back. They have a white border surrounding the dark face feathers. Their strong wings are used for swimming underwater, using their feet and tail to steer.

In courtship, Humboldt penguins point their beaks to the sky and wave their head back and forth. This is accompanied by a ‘braying’ noise. Once the male and female have mated they remain together to raise their chick(s), taking turns to hunt for food and look after the chick(s). The female will lay two eggs per year in a burrow dug into the guano (accumulated seabird droppings).

The first chick to hatch will receive more food than the second. In lean years the stronger chick will push the weaker one aside. This may seem harsh, but it improves the chances of at least one offspring surviving. Chicks normally fledge between 70 and 90 days, when they lose their down and gain their first water-proof plumage.

Humboldt penguins eat a range of fish and squid and can dive to 150m although they usually stay within 60m of the surface.

Humboldt penguins are threatened by poaching, over-fishing of their food species, collection of guano and pollution which increases the risk of disease and are therefore classed as Vulnerable. The guano that covers the nest sites is a good fertiliser, but collection disturbs breeding for the following years. These penguins are protected in Chile and guano collection is regulated.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  • Distribution: Chile, Peru
  • Habitat: Coast, Ocean
  • Diet: Aquatic Insects, Fish
  • Height: 56 – 66cm
  • Weight: 4.5 – 5kg
  • No. of young: 1 – 2
  • Life Span: 30 years