Humboldt Penguin

The Humboldt penguin is a highly social bird residing in South America. They get their name because their habitat is highly influenced by the Humboldt Current, named after naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. They are closely related to the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). This bird is also known as the Peruvian penguin.

Scientific Classification

S. humboldti

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

S. humboldti


Humboldt Penguin

Size: Length: 25-28 inches (65-72 cm) Weight: 7-13 lbs (3.6-5.8 kg)

Body and Coloration: Theyare medium-sized birds with dual coloration; the head and backside are black and white front side with a U-shaped black stripe. The upper part of their bill is black, with a pink fleshy base. White patches extend from behind their eyes and meet down the white front. Their feet are webbed and have splotchy pink patches on them.

Unlike adults, chicks have brown feathers and lack the black stripe across their chest.

Range and Distribution

The Humboldt penguins’ distribution ranges across Chile and Peru, with their largest colony in Chañaral Island and Punta San Juan.

Humboldt Penguin Map
Humboldt Penguin Habitat


These birds prefer saltwater or marine areas as well as temperate and tropical regions. They nest on rocky coasts and islands.

In some areas of their habitat, the climate tends to be warmer, and the sun’s intense heat causes the temperature of their bodies to rise.


The diet of these penguins consists of anchovy, Araucanian herring, garfish, pilchard, sardines, silversides, and squid. Their eating habits largely depend on the region they inhabit.

They spend hours of a day consuming food.

Humboldt Penguins
Humboldt Penguin Pictures


  • Humboldt penguins are diurnal birds.
  • They gather in large colonies, which provide them protection from predators.
  • These birds travel a long distance from their nests to forage.
  • Due to warm temperatures throughout the year, they do not need to migrate.
  • They use different calls to communicate. While feeling threatened, they produce a honk-like yelling sound and a braying call to attract a mate.
  • Every penguin has a different voice that helps them to recognize their mate and offspring.
  • Nesting burrows are made of guano.
  • They undergo about two weeks molting period that usually happens before mating.


The lifespan of these penguins ranges between 15 and 20 years.


  • Their excellent eyesight helps them see properly both on land and underwater.
  • With a body designed for swimming, they quickly catch prey underwater.
  • Their dense plumage protects them from winds up to 60 miles per hour.
  • The overlapping pattern of their feathers helps them to keep waterproof and warm.
  • These penguins possess a supraorbital gland, which extracts excess salt from their blood and excretes it through their beak, allowing them to drink salt water along with fresh water.
Humboldt Penguin Chick
Humboldt Penguin Eggs

Mating and Reproduction

They are monogamous and do not have any particular breeding season. They perform courtship rituals by bowing their heads to each other while exchanging glances. Then they stretch their necks, flap their wings and collapse their chests while making loud bray calls.

Their breeding sites are distributed along the coastal regions of the Atacama Desert and subtropical Isla Foca in north Peru.

The female lays 1-2 whitish eggs. Both the male and the female take part in incubation by taking turns. After 40 days, the eggs hatch, and the chicks are cared for by both parents until they acquire their adult plumage around 70-90 days of age. They reach their reproductive maturity at the age of 3 years.


Natural enemies of these birds include caracaras, cetaceans, foxes, gulls, pinnipeds, and vultures. Occasionally, fur seals, leopard seals, and sea lions also hunt them.

Swimming Humboldt Penguin
Humboldt Penguin Images

Conservation Status

The Humboldt penguin is “Vulnerable” or “VU” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Many of these birds get caught in the local fisherman’s nets and drown yearly. Also, deliberately hunting them for food and fish bait results in the decline of their population. Natural and human-induced climate variation and overfishing of their prey (primarily Peruvian anchoveta) also threatened their survival.

The population of the Humboldt penguin at present is about 12,000 breeding pairs.

Interesting Facts

  • In Peru, these penguins are known aspájaro niño, which means “baby bird”.
  • The oldest known Humboldt penguin is 36 years old.
  • These penguins are very similar in appearance to the Magellanic penguin, except they lack the second black stripe on their chest.

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