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Penguins: Sphenisciformes

Magellanic Penguin (spheniscus Magellanicus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Although both sexes measure 28 inches (71 centimeters), the male weighs more (5.9 to 9.0 pounds [2.7 to 4.1 kilograms]) than the female (6.4 to 10.6 pounds (2.9 to 4.8 kilograms]). This penguin has two black strips across its white chest. The cheeks and cap are brownish black, and the white under parts are speckled with black. The brown eyes look out over a short black bill. Feet are pink with black spots.

Magellanic penguins often return to the same nesting site every year. (Illustration by Patricia Ferrer. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: This bird lives in central Chile and Argentina, south to Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands. Magellanic penguins migrate (travel to another region seasonally) from April to August. Those at the tip of South America travel as far north as Peru and Brazil.

Habitat: Magellanic penguins breed on islands in flat areas as well as on cliffs. They feed close to shore during breeding season.

Diet: This bird prefers schooling fish and squid.

Behavior and reproduction: Like other penguins the Magellanic species breeds in large colonies. They often return to the same nesting site year after year. This bird nests in burrows where possible, in ground nests when not. Both sexes build the nest and share all incubation and parenting duties. The chick from the second laid egg is less likely to survive than its older sibling. The chicks are fed regurgitated food every two to three days.

Magellanic penguins and people: Once hunted for meat and skins, this penguin is a major attraction for ecotourists at Punta Tombo in Argentina.

Conservation status: Magellanic penguins are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. Oil pollution is the biggest threat to this species, though their numbers are still in the millions. ∎



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Naveen, Ron.Waiting to Fly: My Escapades with the Penguins of Antarctica. New York: HarperTrade, 2000.

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Stricherz, Vince. "Penguins Ingest Mollusk Shells to Obtain Calcium for Thicker Shells." University of Washington News (May 11, 2004). Online at http://www.uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=4281 (accessed on May 12, 2004).

Web sites:

Antarctica and Southern Ocean Coalition. http://www.asoc.org/ (accessed on July 14, 2004).

Defenders of Wildlife. http://www.defenders.org/ (accessed on July 14, 2004).

"Emperor Penguins Fun Facts." National Geographic Kids. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/kids/creature_feature/0101/penguins2.html (accessed on May 12, 2004).

"Longevity and Causes of Death." Seaworld. http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/Penguins/longevity.html (accessed on May 12, 2004).

"Magellanic." The Penguin Taxon Advisory Group. http://www.penguintag.org/species_index_magellanic.htm (accessed on May 12, 2004).

"Magellanic Penguin." San Francisco Zoo. http://www.sfzoo.org/cgi-bin/animals.py?ID=54 (accessed on May 12, 2004).

"Spheniscidae-Penguins." EarthLife. http://www.earthlife.net/birds/spheniscidae.html (accessed on May 12, 2004).

"Wildlife of Antarctica: Macaroni Penguin." Antarctic Connection. http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/wildlife/penguins/macaroni.shtml (accessed on May 12, 2004).

"The World of Penguins." Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/penguins/ (accessed on May 13, 2004).

World Wildlife Fund. http://www.worldwildlife.org (accessed on July 14, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsPenguins: Sphenisciformes - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Emperor Penguin (aptenodytes Forsteri): Species Accounts, Macaroni Penguin (eudyptes Chrysolophus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, PENGUINS AND PEOPLE, C