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It’s Flightless Friday!

The Humboldt Penguin (Sphenicus humboldti) can be found on the coasts of Peru and Chile in South America, with small colonies on the Punihuil Islands. It gets its name from the Humboldt current, which runs through its ocean range and provides cold water to the Humboldt Penguin’s neighbors, the Galapagos Penguins. The Humboldt current was named for explorer Alexander Von Humboldt, a Prussian naturalist who traveled around Latin America in the early 1800s.


Humboldt Penguins are medium-sized, standing up to 28 inches (70 cm) tall and weighing up to 13 pounds (5.9 kg) depending on the season. Females weigh slightly less than males. They have the black and white coloring common among all penguin species, with a black band that runs across their chest and down in front of their flippers. Their bills are black with white patches, and a pale stripe runs up to its forehead on each side. Juveniles are mostly gray, and don’t get their stripes until they fledge into their adult feathers.

The diet of Humboldt Penguins is usually provided by the cold Humboldt current that allows for a very diverse array of animals. They feed primarily on schooling fish like anchovies, but also eat squid and krill. Most of these food fish live between the surface and 200 feet (60 meters), but Humboldt Penguins have been observed to dive as deep as 500 feet (150 meters). They prefer to nest on rocky shores.


Humboldt Penguins maintain their breeding colonies pretty much year-round, though the breeding season occurs only in March and April or September and October, depending on the location of the colony. Humboldt Penguins form monogamous mating pairs, and they dig nest burrows in sand or guano. The females will lay clutches of two eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them for the next 40 days. The parents care for both chicks until they are fledged, which is about 12 weeks. After that, the chicks are on their own, and will often dig their own nests.


Humboldt Penguins are considered to be a vulnerable species by the IUCN, because in the past they were over-hunted for their meat and oil, had their eggs and guano stolen, and their food sources were heavily hunted as well. This was on top of the natural predators that Humboldt Penguins face on land, like dogs, hawks and foxes. And in the sea, they’re hunted by sharks, seals and whales. Though they don’t suffer as much as their Galapagos cousins from the El Niño effect, it still impacts their food supply.


Source for all images used in this post.

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