Magellanic Penguin

Magellanic Penguin

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Spheniscus magellanicus
Population size
2.2-3.2 mln
Life Span
25 yrs
TOP SPEED
24 km/h
WEIGHT
2.7-6.5 kg
HEIGHT
61-76 cm
LENGTH
11.2-16.9 cm

A medium-sized species of penguin, this bird has a black back and beak. The front part of the body is colored white. Adult individuals have a symmetrical white stripe, stretching from their eyes, arching on the sides of their head, and then joining above their neck. Young penguins can be identified by having a black stripe beneath their neck, while adults possess two stripes. The cheeks of young penguins are covered with white to dark gray markings. Their plumage consists of two layers until they develop the adult plumage.

Di

Diurnal

Ca

Carnivore

Pi

Piscivores

Se

Semiaquatic

Fl

Flightless bird

Pe

Pelagic birds

Al

Altricial

Na

Natatorial

Te

Territorial

Co

Congregatory

Ov

Oviparous

Bu

Burrowing

Mo

Monogamy

Co

Colonial

Hi

Highly social

Mi

Migrating

M

starts with

Bl

Black And White Animals
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Continents
Biogeographical realms

The species is native to South America. The Magellanic penguins are found along the coasts of Chile, Argentina, and the Falkland Islands. The penguins migrate north to Brazil, reaching as far as Rio de Janeiro. These birds can live in diverse habitats, including forests, grasslands, bare cliffs, headlands, and islands. Breeding can occur in burrows, on the surface, or under bushes.

Magellanic Penguin habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

The Magellanic penguins are diurnal birds. They spend most of their time at sea. These penguins are highly social animals, gathering into large breeding colonies of up to 200.000 birds. During this period, penguins are terrestrial, building nests on sandy shores or rocky cliffs. They construct their nests at a distance of about 2 meters from each other. After the breeding season, penguins and their young migrate north, where they practice a pelagic lifestyle, living in the open ocean. Compared to other penguin species, the Magellanic penguins are more territorial, using vocalizations to protect the territory from intruders. These penguins are strong swimmers, able to swim long distances. They can frequently be seen hunting in groups, cooperating, and helping each other in catching prey.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

These penguins are carnivorous (piscivorous) birds that feed in the water. Their diet consists of fish such as cuttlefish and sardines as well as crustaceans, including squid and krill. The Magellanic penguins possess salt excreting glands, which filter the seawater, allowing the animals to drink it.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
September-February
INCUBATION PERIOD
39-42 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
60-70 days
FEMALE NAME
hen
MALE NAME
cock
BABY NAME
chick, nestling
BABY CARRYING
2-3 eggs

Magellanic penguins have a monogamous mating system. Once forming pairs, they tend to remain together for many breeding seasons. Breeding occurs during the period between September and February. The penguins usually form large nesting colonies, building their nests in burrows or under bushes. The female lays 2 eggs, after which both parents participate in the incubation process for 39-42 days by rotation, taking turns every 10-15 days. When the chicks hatch out, both the male and the female care for them, feeding the hatchlings every 2-3 days. Young penguins develop their adult plumage at the age of 1 month. Then, reaching the age of 60-70 days, the chicks are ready to go out to sea. These birds become reproductively mature when they are 2-3 years old.

Population

Population threats

One of the most notable threats to their population is water pollution. Throughout their range, these penguins are threatened by oil spills. Unlike other seabird species, they are not able to detect the presence of petroleum in the water due to swimming low. On the other hand, the commercial fishing industry in the area reduces the populations of fish species they feed upon such as anchovies and other fish. Also, the penguins are frequently entangled in fishing nets. And finally, climatic changes cause reproductive disruptions and lead to food shortages.

Population number

According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Magellanic penguin is between 1.1 and 1.6 million pairs, which equates to 2.2-3.2 million mature individuals. About 900,000 pairs breed along the Argentinian coast, at least 100,000 pairs breed in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and a minimum of 144,000 pairs and a maximum guess of 500,000 pairs breed in Chile. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Feeding upon squid and fish, Magellanic penguins control the numbers of these species populations. In addition, they are an important source of food for both terrestrial and aquatic predators of their range.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Magellanic penguins demonstrate behavioral adaptations to high temperatures. To cool off, they usually extend their flippers upward, thus exposing more area of their body surface to a breeze. During hot days, these penguins pant like dogs. They also lose the feathers around their eyes, which grow back, when the temperature goes down.
  • The Magellanic penguin was discovered in 1520, during the journey of Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan through South America.
  • Looking for mates, unpaired penguins typically emit a braying call like donkeys.
  • The coloring of the penguins is called countershading, being an ideal camouflage to protect from predators. They have black backs, allowing them to merge with the environment and remain unnoticed by those, looking down from above. Meanwhile, their white bellies merge with the sky and surrounding snow, keeping the animals unseen by predators looking up from underwater.
  • They are able to drink seawater due to having a supraorbital gland, which acts as a filter, removing salt from their blood.
  • They are able to control their bloodstream to their extremities, reducing the amount of freezing blood to a certain degree. However, despite these attempts, their extremities eventually freeze.

References

1. Magellanic Penguin Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magellanic_penguin
2. Magellanic Penguin on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22697822/0
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/619576

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