magellanicus [sfen' is kuhs maj eh lan' ik
uhs] This penguin is named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who spotted the birds in 1520.
This penguin is most easily identified by the
white bands which loop over the eye, down the
side of the neck and meet at the throat. A thick
black band also runs adjacent to the border of
the breast and belly, extending down the flanks
to the thighs.
A medium-sized penguin, the Magellanic stands
24-28 inches tall and weighs 8-13 pounds.
The Magellanic penguin breeds around the
southern tip of South America, from 40°S in
Argentina to 37°S in Chile, as well as on the
Falkland Islands. The largest colonies are found
on the Atlantic side of South America. Most
individual birds follow oceanic currents
northward into more tropical latitudes during the
winter, but vagrants have been recorded as far
away as South Georgia, on the Antarctic
Peninsula, Australia, and New Zealand.
During the breeding season, Magellanic
penguins nest on shoreline grassland habitats
that provide adequate, shrubby vegetative cover,
but are always near the ocean so parents can
easily forage. This species may also nest within
burrows on cliff faces. When not breeding, they
spend nearly all of their time in the waters off
The Magellanic penguin's diet consists
primarily of fish, mainly anchovies and sardines,
supplemented by cephalopods and crustaceans. They
can swim at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and
dive more than 250 feet beneath the surface when
Magellanic penguins arrive at their breeding
grounds in September. If not already paired, the
male makes a loud braying call to advertise for a
mate. This is followed by walking in a circle
around an interested female, and finally engaging
in flipper patting, in which the male's flippers
are vigorously vibrated against the female's
body. Once formed, breeding pairs tend to stay
together for life. Although there may be as many
as 400,000 birds in one breeding colony, breeding
pairs try to maintain some distance between
themselves and neighbors.
The preferred nest is a burrow dug into soft
soil, but if digging is not possible a shallow
scrape on sheltered ground will suffice. Breeding
pairs have been known to reuse the same burrow
for several consecutive years, repairing as
necessary each season. Two equally sized eggs are
laid 4 days apart in mid-October. Incubation
takes around 40 days, with the female incubating
the eggs for the first shift, while the male
feeds at sea. He forages at distances of up to
300 miles away from the breeding site before
returning to relieve the female some 15 or 20
days later. She then goes to sea for a similar
period, and when she returns the two birds change
over at regular intervals until the eggs hatch.
Both parents continue to brood the chicks in
turn on a daily basis, for a period of about 30
days. Chicks are fed daily, with adults leaving
the colony in early morning, and returning with
food later the same day. Magellanic penguins
mostly forage within 20 miles of the nest site
during chick-rearing, except in the Falklands
where longer foraging trips are forced by
conflict with commercial fishing. After the first
month, the parents leave the young unattended and
only return to feed them every one to three days.
The chicks will conrinue to be fed by their
parents until fledging at about 60-70 days.
Sexual maturity is reached at about 4 years,
and Magellanic penguins can live up to 30 years
in the wild.
Like other penguins, Magellanics have tightly
packed feathers and fat to keep them insulated
from the cold, but these penguins are also
adapted to warm temperatures. To cool off during
the heat of the South American summer, they shed
feathers around their bill. When they get too
hot, they can pant like dogs and stand with their
flippers extended to catch a breeze.
These noisy, charismatic sea birds bray like
donkeys, and the males' loud calls to attract
females can be heard up and down the coast.
The Magellanic penguin is listed as near
threatened due primarily to competition from
commercial fishing. Individual populations are
currently stable, however, and its total numbers
appear to be good.
genus & species Spheniscus magellanicus
Animal Diversity Web http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Spheniscus_magellanicus/
Penguin World http://www.penguinworld.com/types/magellanic.html
Wildlife Conservation Society http://www.wcs.org/saving-wildlife/birds/magellanic-penguin.aspx
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