Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti)

Humboldt Penguin

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Enter the Zoo and the Penguins are just up on the left.

Fast facts

Status Vulnerable

Size 65-70 cm. Males tend to be slightly bigger than females.

Weight 4kg

Gestation 40 days

Young 1-2

Life span Up to 26 years

What do I eat?

The main diet of Humboldt penguins is fish (such as anchovies, sardines and herring) but they will also feed on small crustaceans (such as krill) and squid.

Humboldt penguin beaks are hooked and their tongues are covered with fleshy, backward pointing spines, adaptations which help them to catch and hold on to their prey.

Where do I live?

These animals are found along the coasts of Chile and Peru in South America, and close to the Humboldt Current, which is a cold nutrient-rich stretch of water from the Antarctic.

Breeding

Humboldt penguins are monogamous meaning that they mate for life and start to search for a mate at around 2-3 years old. They are able to recognise their mate by their calls and also by looking at the spot patterns on their chest.

The female will lay up to 2 eggs in a nest, built using items such as drift wood, plants, pebbles and guano (penguin droppings) within a dug out burrow. Both parents will take turns to incubate the eggs and care for the young.

Humboldt penguin chicks will leave the nest (fledge) from about 3 months old; but will still be fed by their parents until they are at least 6 months old.

Predators

Predators of wild Humboldt penguins include gulls, caracaras (bird of prey), foxes, fur seals, sharks and orcas.

To stay safe when in the ocean, penguins have a form of camouflage known as ‘counter shading’. If a predator was to look up from the depths of the ocean, the penguins white chests blend well with the surface of the water and if the predator was looking down in to the sea the penguins black backs blend well with the dark, depths of the ocean.

Conservation

In the past penguins have faced many threats caused by humans, including hunting for food and unsustainable egg collecting. However Humboldt penguins are facing further problems linked with over-harvesting of fish in the oceans. In addition to this, their nesting material (bird droppings) is being dug up as it is used as a fertiliser by local farmers - this is known as ‘guano farming’. 

These birds are protected in Chile by a 30 year moratorium (temporary ban) on hunting and capturing Humboldt penguins which has been in place since 1995. In Peru, Humboldt penguins are protected by law, and the removal of the penguin’s guano is being managed by the government.

Penguin Cam

Penguin Cam - Click to Enlarge

Did you know?

When swimming, penguins move their wings in the same motion as flying birds; they will also use their tail and webbed feet to help change direction quickly.

These birds can dive within 30 metres of the surface of the ocean, which is about the same length as 3.5 double decker buses!

Humboldt penguins have a special gland that allows them to drink sea water as well as fresh water. It then concentrates the excess salt out of the bill, so it looks like they are sneezing!

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Amazing and interesting day out!

We visited Marwell as a spontaneous day out on a Sunday in May 2015. The first thing about the zoo that I noticed was the wide paths and just how open it was. We really appreciated all the space, it was nice to have as much time as we liked to… Read full reviewBernice , 11th May 2015