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Galapagos Sea Birds

Galapagos Penguins

While it may be surprising to think of Penguins at the equator, there is an endemic species of Penguin living in the surprisingly cool waters surrounding the Galapagos. The Galapagos Penguin can survive due to the cool temperatures resulting from the Humboldt Current and cool waters from great depths brought up by the Cromwell Current. Its nearest relatives are the African Penguin, the Magellanic Penguin and the Humboldt Penguin. The Galapagos Penguin occurs primarily on Fernandina Island and the west coast of Isabela Island, but small populations are scattered on other islands in the Galapagos archipelago.

The Galapagos Penguin is the only Penguin to live north of the equator as well as the only species totally restricted to the tropics. Galapagos Penguins have a thin white band that runs under their chin. Galapagos Penguins have a black upside down horseshoe shape around their belly. This is what mostly distinguishes them from other Penguins.

Although on land the Galapagos Penguin is a somewhat awkward and very amusing bird as it waddles and hops along the rocks in the water, Penguins are excellent swimmers, quickly achieving speeds of up to 35 kilometres per hour (almost 22 miles per hour).

Galapagos Penguins are quite small, they only stand about 16 - 18 inches high and weigh around 5 pounds. They feed mostly on fish such as sardines and mullet. They are dependent on the ocean currents to bring fish to their feeding grounds.

Galapagos Penguin

One of the main problems for this Penguin is keeping cool. Living close to the equator it gets over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) during the daytime. They keep cool by swimming and hunting for food during the day in the cold water of the Cromwell Current (also called Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent or just Equatorial Undercurrent). During the cool nights, Galapagos Penguins sleep and nest on the land. They hold their flippers out to help the heat escape their bodies. They protect their feet from getting sunburned by holding their flippers over their feet when on land.

Galapagos Penguins also keep cool by spreading out their wings and fluffing up their feathers and also by swimming in the cold currents around the islands.

Galapagos Penguins

The Galapagos Penguin mates for life. They only mate and breed when there is plenty of food. Often only one chick is raised. Both parents tend the eggs for 38 to 40 days. Chicks are cared for by both male and female. The chick is guarded for about 30 days after hatching with each parent taking turns to go away and feed, sometimes for several days at a time. The chick molts, develop their adult feathers, and are on their own in about 60 to 65 days. If there is not enough food available, the nest may be abandoned.

The Galapagos Penguins is an endangered species, with an estimated population size of around 1,500 individuals in 2004, according to a survey by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The population underwent an alarming decline of 65% in the 1980s, but is slowly recovering. It is therefore the rarest penguin species.

More Galapagos Sea Birds:

Blue Footed Booby Bird | Red Footed Booby Bird | Masked Booby Bird | Nazca Booby Bird | Brown Pelican | Frigate Birds | Galapagos Penguins | Waved Albatross | Red Billed Tropic Bird | Audubon's Shearwater Bird | Storm Petrel Bird | Swallow Tailed Gull | Flightless Cormorant | Lava Gull | Brown Noddy Tern | White Cheeked Pintail Duck

Galapagos Penguin Classification
S. mendiculus
Binomial name
Spheniscus Mendiculus
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