Magellanic Penguins are medium-sized penguins which grow to be 61–76
cm (24–30 in) tall and weigh between 2.7 kg and 6.5 kg (5.9-14.3
lbs). The males are larger than the females, and the weight of both
drops while the parents nurture their young. Adults have black backs
and white abdomens. There are two black bands between the head and
the breast, with the lower band shaped in an inverted horseshoe. The
head is black with a broad white border that runs from behind the
eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat.
Chicks and younger penguins have grey-blue backs, with a more faded
grey-blue color on their chest. Magellanic Penguins can live up to
25 years in the wild, but as much as 30 years in captivity. Young
birds usually have a blotched pattern on their feet, which fades as
they age. By the time these birds reach about ten years of age, their
feet usually become all black. Like other species of penguins, the
Magellanic Penguin has very rigid wings used to "fly" or
cruise under water.
The Magellanic Penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus, is a South American
penguin, breeding in coastal Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands,
with some migrating to Brazil where they are occasionally seen as
far north as Rio de Janeiro. They are native to the Strait of Magellan
in the cool climate of southern Chile, hence the name's origin.
Magellanic Penguins travel in large flocks when hunting for food.
In the breeding season, these birds gather in large nesting colonies
at the coasts of Argentina, southern Chile, and the Falkland Islands,
which have a density of 20 nests per 100 square meters. One of the
largest of these colonies is located at Punta Tombo. Nests are built
under bushes or in burrows. Two eggs are laid. Incubation lasts 39–42
days, a task which the parents share in 10-15 day shifts. The chicks
are cared for by both parents for 29 days and are fed every two to
three days. Normally, both are raised through adulthood, though occasionally
only one chick is raised. Magellanic Penguins mate with the same partner
year after year. The male reclaims his burrow from the previous year
and waits to reconnect with his female partner. The females are able
to recognize their mates through their call alone.
Magellanic Penguins feed in the water, preying on cuttlefish, sardines,
squid, krill, and other crustaceans, and ingest sea water with their
prey. Their salt-excreting gland rids the salt from their bodies.
Millions of these penguins still live on the coasts of Argentina and
Chile, but the species is classified as a "threatened species",
primarily due to the vulnerability of large breeding colonies to oil
spills, which kill 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year off
the coast of Argentina. The decline of fish populations is also responsible,
as well as predators such as sea lions and giant petrels, which prey
on the chicks.