Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) 

Species:S. humboldti
Humboldt penguin
Humboldt penguin

The Humboldt penguin is a medium-sized penguin. Its scientific name is Spheniscus humboldti. It lives in South America, and most of coastal Peru is in its range. The African penguin, the Magellanic penguin, and the Galápagos penguin are the ones that are most like it.

The Humboldt penguin and the cold water current it swims in are both named after the explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The IUCN has put the species on its list of “vulnerable” species because there is no plan for the population to recover. There are 32,000 adults in the population now, and that number is going down. The species moves around.

Humboldt Penguin Distribution

The Humboldt penguin is a subtropical species that can only be found on the coastlines of Chile and Peru in the Pacific. Their home territory covers a wide swath of the Pacific, from the northernmost tip of Isla Foca to the southernmost tip of the Punihuil Islands. Cold, nutrient-rich waters are typical of this region because of its proximity to the Humboldt Current, a significant oceanic upwelling.

Habitat: Where Do Humboldt Penguins Live?

The coast is where Humboldt penguins spend most of their time. The amount of time they spend in the water is linked to whether or not they are breeding. Penguins that aren’t breeding spend an average of 60 hours in the water before coming back to land. The longest time they spend in the water is 163.3 hours. Penguins that are breeding spend less time at sea. Their trips average 22.4 hours and can last up to 35.3 hours.

Humboldt penguins must come ashore to rest, breed, & raise their young, just like most other penguins. South America’s Pacific coast is usually rocky and known for having a lot of guano. Penguins choose these places to nest, but sometimes they will use a cave near the shore.

Physical Description: How Do Humboldt Penguins Look Like

The length of a Humboldt penguin is between 66 and 70 cm, and it weighs between 4 and 5 kg. On the back, they have blackish-gray feathers, and on the chest, they have white feathers. Humboldt penguins have black heads with white stripes under their eyes that wrap around the side of their heads and meet at the chin to make a horseshoe shape.

The species is easy to tell apart from Magellanic penguins by the solid black band on the breast (Spheniscus magellanicus). The solid band on the breast also helps tell adults apart from young birds, whose heads are darker.


We don’t know much about a Humboldt penguin’s life length. There isn’t much information about penguins in the wild, but Sea World says that they can live for 15 to 20 years in their facilities. People think that penguins in captivity will live longer than penguins in the wild because they don’t have to deal with predators and eat a balanced diet. Less than half of chicks make it past their first year of life, which is also known.


Humboldt Penguin Behavior

Humboldt penguin
Humboldt penguin

Most Humboldt penguins change their skin in January. Studies indicate that this behavior is linked to a rise in thyroid hormones while sex steroid hormones are at their lowest level. When a bird molts, it gets rid of its old, worn-out feathers and grows new ones. This is very important for penguins because their feathers keep them warm and keep water out. During the two weeks that they are molting, the penguins won’t eat because they can’t get into the water to find food.

Scientists have found that Humboldt penguins are very sensitive to people. At places that were popular with tourists, they were much less likely to have babies. The penguin’s heart rate went up a lot when a person was 150 meters away, & it took 30 minutes for the penguin to get back to normal. It’s possible that they have been hunted in the past, which makes them afraid of people.

Humboldt penguins live in large groups called colonies. They are usually very social, except when they are hunting for food. Whether an adult penguin has chicks or not affects how it looks for food. Penguins that aren’t raising young can be away from the colony for longer periods, letting them try out different places to find food that is farther away. Penguins with young chicks don’t usually stay out all night to find food, and their dives are usually shallower and shorter.


Satellite tracking of free-roaming Humboldt penguins has shown that 90 percent of all satellite locations were within 35 km of their breeding grounds, with the farthest location being 100 km away. When there is an El Nino, these values go up. Penguins will leave their nests and go find food as far as 895 km away. A previous theory said that Humboldt penguins don’t move around much and stay close to their breeding grounds all year. These results prove that theory wrong.

Humboldt Penguin Reproduction

Humboldt penguins only have one partner, and they can tell who it is in the colony by how it sounds. Even though they usually only mate with one male, the female sometimes asks another male to mate with her. The female always starts extra-pair mating, but the costs and benefits of this strategy are not well known.

The penguin Humboldt males may also start usurps, which is when a single male moves into the nest of a paired pair. This happens very rarely. Even though this is a way to get a mate, the invader could get hurt or even die from it. El Nio-like times when food is scarce could be good for usurpation. Research has shown that females are affected more than males during these times, which makes the gender ratios more skewed toward males. The usurpation rate may increase if more males lose their mates to death.

How Do The Humboldt Penguins Mate

Because it is usually warm on land where Humboldt penguins live, they can have babies almost all year long. Breeding happens from March to December, with the most happening in April and August to September. Penguins will shed their skin before they can have babies. Penguins spend about two weeks on land and don’t eat during molting. Then, they will go to the sea to eat before returning to the nesting grounds to mate.

Humboldt penguins build nests that are covered to protect their eggs from the sun and from predators in the air & on the ground. Penguins often build their nests out of thick piles of guano that they find on the beach. They dig holes and put their eggs inside to keep them safe. Each female lays two eggs that are about the same size. After laying eggs, the male and female will take care of the nest for the next six weeks.

As was already said, both males and females watch and protect the nest before the eggs hatch. After the eggs hatch, both parents will feed the chicks. Adults must give chicks enough food at regular intervals, but they also need to be able to take care of themselves.

This is done by switching between short trips to find food for the chicks and longer trips to take care of themselves. Experts say that penguins with chicks tend to look for food during the day and take short, shallow dives. Once the hatchlings molt, which is the start of the juvenile stage, they go out into the ocean to find food on their own and are fully grown.

How Do Humboldt Penguins Communicate

So, what about Humboldt penguin sounds? Individuals make sounds that are unique and help mates find each other. The three calls that Humboldt penguins make are the contact call, the display call, and the threat call. Recent studies have shown that Humboldt penguins have a very good sense of smell. It is thought that chicks learn to like their parents’ smells, which has something to do with how they interact with their friends and family.

It is thought that because of natal philopatry, selection favors kin recognition to prevent incest with siblings who were born in different years and are, therefore, unfamiliar. Humboldt penguins try out new smells, but when they find one they like, they go back to it. So, it’s likely that being able to remember a smell helps birds find their nest or colony mates. There may also be a link between familiar smells and finding burrows at night.

People think that Humboldt penguins see the same way that other penguins do. When there isn’t much light, they can’t see their prey. They do this by reducing the radius of curvature of the lens’s front surface. They see just as well in the air as they do in the water. With a flat cornea and a spherical lens, the loss of corneal power underwater is lessened. The accommodation also helps with this. People think penguins were nearsighted when they were in the air, but recent studies show this is not true.

Humboldt Penguins Favourite Food

Humboldt penguins eat groups of fish called pelagic fish. Penguins in the north of Chile ate almost only garfish, while those in the middle of the country liked anchovies, pilchards, and squid. People think that the difference is because different kinds of prey are available in the different places where the birds hunt. Humboldt penguins also eat the Araucanian herring and silversides.

Humboldt Penguin Predators

Sharks, fur seals, and sea lions eat Humboldt penguins when they are in the ocean. On land, wild cats, dogs, foxes, snakes, and rodents eat the eggs in the nests. When a juvenile or adult Humboldt penguin is small, these animals sometimes attack it. Insular penguins don’t have ways to protect themselves from rats and feral cats because humans just recently brought them to islands.

Gulls are also known to do this, though not as much. Humboldt penguins use guano to dig holes for their eggs, which helps protect them from being eaten. Humboldt penguins live in big groups called colonies. This gives them a sense of safety in numbers. In the water, their best defense is being quick and agile swimmers.


Humboldt penguin
Humboldt penguin

Why Is The Humboldt Penguin Endangered?

Overfishing, especially in the anchovy fishery off the coast of South America, threatens the food supply for Humboldt penguins.

How Many Humboldt Penguins Are Left In The Wild?

Approximately 8,000 breeding Humboldt penguins live in Chile, while the remaining 4,000 live in Peru.

How Is Humboldt Penguins Different From Other Penguins?

The Humboldt Current, a massive marine upwelling characterized by frigid waters, is close to their home, hence the name. Humboldt penguins have developed extensive areas of exposed skin around their eyes to aid in cooling.

How Long Can Humboldt Penguins Hold Their Breath?

It has top speeds of around 20 mph! Diving to depths of roughly 30 meters, the average time a Humboldt penguin can stay underwater is about 10 minutes.

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