Magellanic penguin

(Spheniscus magellanicus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in low forests or on flat land along the southern coast of South America, including Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands.

Size: About 27 inches tall; 7-17 pounds

Wild Diet: Primarily anchovies and sardines; also cuttlefish, squid, krill, and other marine cephalopods and crustaceans.

Predators: Giant petrels, foxes, pumas, sea lions and killer whales. Young penguins and eggs may fall prey to kelp gulls, great skuas, lesser grisons (members of the weasel family), and large hairy armadillos.

Reproduction: Magellanic penguins are serially monogamous, meaning that mated pairs stay together during the breeding season but may find new partners each year. They breed once in September-October. Females lay two eggs in a burrow, but often only the first-hatched chick survives. Parents take shifts to incubate the eggs until they hatch 39-42 days later. Newborn chicks depend on their parents for food and warmth and will not leave their side for about a month. After that, parents may leave the chick alone for a few days at a time to forage underwater.

Behavior: When not breeding, Magellanic penguins have a pelagic lifestyle, spending most of their time at sea. During breeding seasons, they nest in burrows along grassy shorelines. This type of habitat provides shelter while allowing them to stay close to the water. Mated pairs preen each other and hit their bill tips against each other to strengthen their bond.


IUCN Status: Near Threatened

Magellanic penguins face a number of threats including oil spills, climate change, pollution, predation, and commercial fishing, which depletes populations of small fish that are crucial to their diet and increases their risk of being caught in nets. They are also hunted for their meat and skins.

Did you know?

  • Magellanic penguins can hold their breath for 3-5 minutes.
  • Males attract mates by “braying” like donkeys. When a female responds, he walks around her in a circle and pats her with his flippers.