Threatened by oil spills!
Magellanic Penguin Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Spheniscus magellanicus
Magellanic Penguin Conservation Status
Magellanic Penguin Facts
Magellanic Penguin Images
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“Magellanic penguins are fast swimmers reaching speeds of 15 mph or more.”
Magellanic penguins live on coasts in South America. They are carnivores eating fish and some crustaceans. These penguins make nests in burrows and even under bushes. They are highly social animals living in groups that include as many as 400,000 penguins! The lifespan of these birds is 25 to 30 years.
5 Incredible Magellanic Penguin Facts!
- These birds can shed feathers to cool down if they get too hot
- They eat krill, cuttlefish, and squid
- A female penguin can find her mate by listening for a specific call
- These birds have special glands allowing them to push out the salt they absorb from the ocean water
- The population of these penguins is decreasing
Magellanic Penguin Scientific Name
The scientific name of the Magellanic penguin is Spheniscus magellanicus. Magellanicus refers to explorer Ferdinand Magellan. He took note of these penguins as he sailed near South America in 1520. It belongs to the Spheniscidae family and is in the class Aves.
Magellanic Penguin Appearance and Behavior
Magellanic penguins have black feathers on their backs, heads, and wings. They have white feathers on their underside and two black stripes across the top of their chest. This differs from their close relative the endangered African penguin that has just one black stripe on its chest. Magellanic penguins also have a ring of white running from their chin up to above their eyes.
The height range for these birds goes from 24 to 30 inches. They weigh from 5 to 14 pounds. Males are usually larger than females. As an example, a Magellanic penguin that’s 30 inches tall is equal in height to 2 bowling pins stacked up to make a tower. A 10-pound penguin is equal in weight to an average size housecat. Magellanic penguins are the largest member of the genus Spheniscus.
The flippers of a Magellanic penguin as well as its slick feathers help it to swim through the water at high speed. The fastest this penguin can travel is 15 mph. This level of speed helps them capture prey including fish and some crustaceans.
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These penguins absorb a lot of saltwater as they swim through the ocean. They have special glands located near their eyes that release salt, so they don’t have too much in their bodies.
When a Magellanic penguin gets hot, it sheds some of its feathers to cool its body temperature. It has also been known to hold its wings out at its sides to increase air circulation. Sometimes this penguin will pant to cool off just like a dog does!
If humans approach a group of Magellanic penguins, these birds quickly seek shelter in their burrows. Plus, the fact that a group of penguins can number as high as 400,000 gives these birds protection from predators. Safety in numbers!
A Magellanic penguin’s colors help to protect it from predators while keeping them hidden from prey. A penguin’s white underside keeps them hidden from fish and other prey that cannot see them against the light filtering in from above. In addition, the black feathers on their back keep them hidden from some predators as they blend in with the dark waters of the ocean. This color combination is called countershading.
This bird is definitely a social animal living with hundreds of thousands of other penguins. A group of penguins is known as a colony. Though these birds move away from humans when they come near, they are aggressive with other penguins. In fact, they are known to be one of the most aggressive penguins out of the many species.
When breeding season begins, male penguins that have just reached sexual maturity, fight with other males causing great injury. Biting, flapping wings and loud calls are all a part of this competition. Female Magellanic penguins fight one another over males as well.
Magellanic Penguin Habitat
This penguin lives at the tip of South America. Specifically, on the coasts of Chile and Argentina as well as on the Falkland Islands. These penguins live in a dry, temperate climate.
Magellanic penguins spend most of the time in the ocean waters off of South America. They usually stay about 150 feet from shore. During breeding season, their habitat becomes the grassy shores of South America. They live in burrows or make their nests under bushes.
In the wintertime, Magellanic penguins migrate north along the South American coast. They may travel as far as Peru or Brazil.
Magellanic Penguin Diet
What do Magellanic penguins eat? These birds are carnivores eating krill, cuttlefish, squid, anchovies, and sardines.
One of the most interesting facts about these penguins is they dive from 100 to 200 feet into the ocean to hunt for food. Group foraging is a common practice of Magellanic penguins. This is when a large group of them dive for prey and are able to capture more fish than just one penguin hunting solo.
Magellanic Penguin Predators and Threats
Some other threats to these penguins include loss of their food source. Commercial fishermen are capturing a lot of the same fish that these penguins eat. Competing with the commercial fishing industry for food has endangered the future of many types of penguins. Water pollution such as oil spills present an environmental threat to Magellanic penguins. Flooding on these shores also puts penguin chicks and eggs in danger.
The official conservation status of these penguins is Near Threatened with a decreasing population.
Magellanic Penguin Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan
These penguins are monogamous. They return to the same mate every breeding season beginning in September. How can a female find a particular male in a colony of hundreds of thousands of penguins? After all, these penguins are very noisy. They make a braying sound like a donkey. However, a female penguin is able to recognize her mate through his unique call. This bird lays its eggs in October.
Using a burrow for shelter, a female penguin lays 2 eggs. The eggs have a 40-day incubation period. During that time, the male and female share the task of caring for the eggs. When one is watching over the eggs, the other bird is out in the ocean hunting for food.
The baby penguins are called chicks. They are born weighing just a few ounces and are about 3 inches long. These chicks are dependent on their parents for everything. They are covered in grayish-blue downy feathers and don’t begin to grow any waterproof feathers until they are almost one month old. So, a burrow serves as warm shelter and protection for penguin chicks with a light layer of feathers.
Penguin chicks eat the prey brought to them by their parents. One of the parents eats the prey, then regurgitates it into a chick’s mouth so the baby can digest it. As a chick grows older, it’s able to eat small pieces of torn up fish and other prey.
Penguin chicks leave the nest when they have fledged. Fledging is when a chick grows a full collection of feathers that it will have as an adult. Penguin chicks usually leave the nest at around 4 months old.
The lifespan of a Magellanic penguin is 25 to 30 years. The record for the oldest Magellanic penguin is 36 years old.
Magellanic Penguin Population
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species the estimated population of Magellanic penguins is 1.1 to 1.6 million pairs.
The conservation status of Magellanic penguins is Near Threatened and its population is decreasing.
Magellanic Penguins in the Zoo
- See a collection of Magellanic penguins at the Potter Park Zoo
- The Cincinnati Zoo has these penguins on proud display
- Check out the Magellanic penguins in the Tuxedo Coast exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Magellanic Penguin FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are Magellanic penguins herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?
Magellanic penguins are carnivores eating krill, sardines, cuttlefish, and some crustaceans.
How long do Magellanic penguins live?
One of the most amazing facts about these penguins is they have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years!
How tall are Magellanic penguins?
The height of this penguin spans from 24 to 30 inches tall.
Why is the Magellanic penguin endangered?
The official conservation status of this penguin is Near Threatened. This is due to the loss of its food source to commercial fishermen. Also, these birds face environmental threats such as oil spills. Flooding of their habitat is another threat to the eggs and chicks of Magellanic penguins.
How long can a Magellanic penguin stay under water?
Magellanic penguins can stay underwater for about 90 seconds. You see they have to be fast swimmers so they can dive 100 or more feet into the ocean, capture their prey, and be back at the surface in 90 seconds!
What Kingdom do Magellanic Penguins belong to?
Magellanic Penguins belong to the Kingdom Animalia.
What phylum do Magellanic Penguins belong to?
Magellanic Penguins belong to the phylum Chordata.
What class do Magellanic Penguins belong to?
Magellanic Penguins belong to the class Aves.
What family do Magellanic Penguins belong to?
Magellanic Penguins belong to the family Spheniscidae.
What order do Magellanic Penguins belong to?
Magellanic Penguins belong to the order Sphenisciformes.
What genus do Magellanic Penguins belong to?
Magellanic Penguins belong to the genus Spheniscus.
What type of covering do Magellanic Penguins have?
Magellanic Penguins are covered in Feathers.
In what type of habitat do Magellanic Penguins live?
Magellanic Penguins live in antarctic islands.
What is the main prey for Magellanic Penguins?
Magellanic Penguins prey on cuttlefish, squid, and sardines.
What are some predators of Magellanic Penguins?
Predators of Magellanic Penguins include sea lions, leopard seals, and killer whales.
What are some distinguishing features of Magellanic Penguins?
Magellanic Penguins have black beaks and small wings.
How many babies do Magellanic Penguins have?
The average number of babies a Magellanic Penguin has is 2.
What is an interesting fact about Magellanic Penguins?
Magellanic Penguins are threatened by oil spills!
What is the scientific name for the Magellanic Penguin?
The scientific name for the Magellanic Penguin is Spheniscus magellanicus.
How fast is a Magellanic Penguin?
A Magellanic Penguin can travel at speeds of up to 22 miles per hour.
How do Magellanic Penguins have babies?
Magellanic Penguins lay eggs.
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animal, The Definitive Visual Guide To The World's Wildlife
- Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
- David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia
- Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
- Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals
- Christopher Perrins, Oxford University Press (2009) The Encyclopedia Of Birds
- Oceanwide Expeditions, Available here: https://oceanwide-expeditions.com/to-do/wildlife/magellanic-penguin
- Aquarium of the Pacific, Available here: https://www.aquariumofpacific.org/exhibits/penguin_habitat/magellanic_penguins
- Penguin World, Available here: https://www.penguinworld.com/types/magellanic.html