Magellanic Penguin

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Magellanic Penguin
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spheniscidae
Genus: Spheniscus
Species: S. magellanicus
Binomial name
Spheniscus magellanicus
(Forster, 1781)
Red area shows range

The Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) is a South American penguin, breeding in coastal Argentina, Chile and the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands, with some migrating to Brazil where they are occasionally seen as far north as Rio de Janeiro. It is the most numerous of the Spheniscus penguins. Its nearest relatives are the African, the Humboldt and the Galápagos Penguins. The Magellanic penguin was named after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who spotted the birds in 1520.

Description[edit]

Magellanic penguin on Argentina's coast
Swimming underwater at Berlin Zoo, Germany

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).[2][3] 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 colour 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 grow up into adulthood. 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.

Diet[edit]

Magellanic Penguins feed in the water, preying on cuttlefish, squid, krill, and other crustaceans, and ingest sea water with their prey. Their salt-excreting gland rids the salt from their bodies.

Breeding[edit]

A couple of penguins copulating in their nesting site in Punta Tombo
Adults and chicks by their burrow in Cape Virgenes, Patagonia, Argentina

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.[4] 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.

Status in the wild[edit]

Magellanic penguins at the Patagonian coast

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. To help the fight against the oil spills, zoo representatives from all over the world come and adopt the hatchlings, and breed them there. The decline of fish populations is also responsible, as well as predators such as sea lions, giant petrels, and leopard seals which prey on the chicks.

Climate change has displaced fish populations, so Magellanic penguins must swim an extra 25 miles (40 km) further from the nest for fish. While the penguins are swimming an extra 50 miles (80.4 km), their mates are sitting on a nest and starving. A colony being tracked by University of Washington professor P. Dee Boersma, about 1,000 miles (1,609 km) south of Buenos Aires, has fallen by more than 20 percent in the past 22 years, leaving 200,000 breeding pairs. Some younger penguins are now moving their breeding colonies north to be closer to fish, but, in some cases, this is putting them on private, unprotected lands. As a result of these changes, some penguins are known to have been lost or confused.[5] At present, 12 of 17 penguin species are experiencing rapid population declines. A recent study of professor Dee Boersma showed that an increase of rainstorms caused by climate change weather pattern have a big impact in the chicks population, chicks haven't yet grow waterproof feathers so are more likely to die of hypothermia when they get wet during big storms.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Spheniscus magellanicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ BBC.co.uk
  3. ^ Answers-.penguin
  4. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) Globaltwitcher.auderis.se, Magellanic Penguin, ed. N. Stromberg]
  5. ^ "Confused penguin strays 5,000km". BBC News. 11 May 2007. 
  6. ^ Netburn, Deborah (January 31, 2014). "Why baby Magellanic penguins are dying in the rain". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 

External links[edit]