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» The Magellanic Penguin

These handsome birds, with black feathers on the dorsal side and white feathers on the ventral side cannot fly but they have admirably adapted to aquatic life. Their webbed feet are set far back in the body, which turns them rather clumsy at walking but helps them to swim. They have close feathering and a thick layer of subcutaneous fat. Their wings are in the form of fins. As a consequence, they may spend most of their lives in water and go back to firm land only for the mating period and molting periods.

Magellanic Penguins may reach a total length of up to 70 cm and a maximum weight of 5 or 6 kilograms. The body is spindle-shaped, with a robust and heavy skeleton and a wide chest and developed breastbone.

Reproduction

After having spent the winter along the Brazilian coastline, more than 200 thousand mating pairs of Magellanic penguins arrive at Punta Tombo in late August or early September for mating. The first animals to arrive at the Chubut shoreline are the males. They touch land some days before their stable partners (they are monogamous) and start to clean very carefully the same nest they had used the prior year and rest waiting for the arrival of their partners some days later. Eggs are laid in late September; each female normally lays two eggs with an interval of a couple of days in between which can take about 40 days to hatch, so that in November chicks are born. They are insatiably hungry and the parents alternate to go to the beach in search of food.

Breeding

After spending winter in Brazil coasts, more than 200 couples of Magellanic penguins reach the Chubut shores by mid-September in order to breed. The first to arrive are the males. They reach land some days before their stable couple (they are monogamous) and they start cleaning and leaving impeccable the same nest that was used the previous year. There, while resting, they wait for their couple that arrives some days after.

The laying of the eggs is by the end of September and each female normally lays two eggs, with a several day interval between one and the other. After forty days of hatching, in November, the pigeons are born. They are insatiably hungry therefore the parents take turns to go to the beach to look for food.

Plumage

A visit to Cabo Dos Bahias or to Punta Tombo in November or December permits distinguishing three generations of birds: the newly-born pigeons which are still in their nests and covered by a soft and grey featherbed; the parents which have a black and white plumage clearly differentiated and which they carefully look after; and the young ones or pigeons from the previous year which have the body covered of true feathers, but grey. These are the ones that returned to the coast to change plumage. They have to remain in the mainland for a month, hungry; waiting for their adult plumage ends completion and proof.

Causes of Death

There are presently three main man-induced causes of death: oil spills, oil releases in the ocean as a result of the vessel tank washing and entanglement in fishing nets. Recent studies have shown that at least 10% of the deaths occurred during migration were caused by oiling, whereas 6% of the birds that died were caught in fishing nets.


A strongly home-oriented animal

Scientific Data Spheniscus Magellanicus

Scientific name Spheniscus magellanicus
Common names Magellanic Penguin, Pájaro bobo.
Average size 44 cm
Average weight approximately 4 kilogram
Velocidad de buceo alcanzan los 45 km/h
Diet fish and squid
Predators Rheas, kelp gulls, dolphin gulls, Antarctic doves, Giant petrels, and red foxes are considered to be natural predators of penguins as they feed on penguin eggs or on their chicks. Also man and oil are considered to be penguins’ predators.
Habitat Beaches and rocky shores

Information Sources

  1. Tell, G.; Izaguirre, I.y Quintana, R.: Flora y Fauna Patagónicas, Ediciones Caleuche, 1997.
  2. Oliva, G.: Aves Patagónicas, Unidad Académica de Río Gallegos, 1993
  3. Narosky, T. y Yzurieta, D.: Guía para la identificación de las aves de Argentina y Uruguay.
  4. Web site Animal Diversity Web de la University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
  5. Dirección de Fauna y Flora Silvestre del Gobierno del Chubut