Magellanic Penguin Biology
Where are they found?
Magellanic penguins are found around southern South America, swimming in waters of the continental shelf, or breeding in colonies along the coast and islands. Adults spend about half the year at sea, seldom coming ashore, and half the year at breeding colonies in southern Argentina, southern Chile, and the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. The northern-most colonies are at about 40° S. Some colonies can be visited by tourists, such as the provincial reserve at Punta Tombo, Argentina, one of the largest colonies with well over 100,000 pairs.
Even during the breeding season, penguins spend a lot of time at sea because that is where their food lives. They fast whenever they are on land. Magellanic penguins in Argentina swim between 10 and 600 km from their colonies to forage during the breeding season, depending on the colony location, time of year, and how much food is available each year.
After the breeding season, chicks, juveniles, and adults leave the colonies and swim north.
What do they look like?
Breeding biology at Punta Tombo, Argentina
Adults arrive to breed in mid-September to mid-October. Males arrive before females–often, but not always–to the same nest they used in previous years. They nest in burrows that they dig, under bushes, or occasionally in a shallow scrape in the open. Males fix up their nests if needed–for example, a male may need to dig out a burrow that collapsed during winter rains. Males defend their nests against other males by fighting with bills and flippers, often drawing blood, but seldom causing serious injury. A female may chose to stay with the same mate from previous years or pick a new mate.
The species has been in sustained decline since 1989, although the numbers fluctuate in different parts of the penguin’s range.
The main threats are at sea, including climate variation, fishing bycatch and entanglement, competition for prey, and petroleum pollution.