Galapagos Island Penguin(Spheniscus mendiculus) Facts for Kids Penguins 101
When we think of Penguins, the equator is not the first place we’d think to find them. However, there is a species of penguin that lives exclusively in the tropics, where the climate is warm and entirely different from the habitats of the larger species. Their distribution is exclusively the Galapagos Islands of Charles Darwin fame, an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 563 miles west of continental Ecuador. Cool, huh … I mean ummm warm… anyway this is Animal Facts. Let’s Get Started.
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10. Galapagos penguins are the smallest of the banded penguins and the third smallest of all 17 penguin species. Among all banded penguins, which includes African, Humboldt, and Magellanic species, the Galapagos penguin is the easiest to recognize because they have black feathers on most of their body, with some distinctive white marks on their face, beak, and chest.
9. Galapagos penguins are a sedentary species that stay near their colony and only venture as far as 3 miles away. They live in relatively small communities compared to other penguin species, but they are well organized and coordinated to hunt in groups.
8. Before they breed, the Galapagos penguins molt, and they may do this twice a year. While the Galapagos penguins are molting, they usually stay out of the water. They are able to go to the sea for food rather than starve though since the water is so warm in their area. Since they molt right before breeding, Galapagos penguins are able to ensure that they will not starve during the molting process.
7. The warm climate and intense sun of their environment may sometimes overheat them, which they solve by opening their flippers seeking to radiate heat and get the fresh sea breeze to lower their temperature. Ocean waters around the islands keep moderate temperatures, which are also ideal to end body overheating, if necessary. The bird usually walks slightly hunched to keep its bare feet in the shade (to prevent sunburns).
6. Galapagos penguins form couples that last a lifetime. These penguins are monogamous and maintain 90% fidelity. They do not have a regular reproduction season, but it commonly occurs from April to May and from August to September. Females lay two eggs in nests built within volcanic rock cavities and both parent help in incubation and taking care of hatchlings. Chicks leave the nest 60 days later, and they can feed themselves a few months later.
5. Because of the Galapagos Penguin’s smaller size, it has many predators both in the water and on dry land. On land, the Galapagos penguins must keep an eye out for crabs, snakes, owls, and hawks, while in the water they must avoid sharks, fur seals, and sea lions. The Galapagos penguin has also been severely affected by human activity around the island chain.
4. Galapagos penguins eat mostly small fish such as mullet and sardines. They are dependent on the ocean currents to bring fish to their feeding grounds. Severe weather from El Nino caused a severe shortage of food about 20 years ago. At that time over 70% of the Galapagos penguins died. With only 1,500 individuals spotted in the wild in 2004, the Galapagos penguin is the rarest species of penguins, a status that is often falsely attributed to the yellow-eyed penguin.
3. As with most penguin species, the black and white coloration is called countershading which provides camouflage against predators. The white provides camouflage under water from marine predators looking upwards, while the black protects against birds looking downwards.
2. They are not by any means the deepest diving penguins, but they can dive up to 30 meters or about 100 feet under water.
1. They do well in captivity so they are a common penguin seen at zoo exhibits. Many of these displays are also part of breeding programs to increase overall numbers. The goal is to eventually be able to release some of them back into the wild. There are also captivity programs for penguins with injuries. Rehabilitation and care are offered to these creatures that would otherwise die in the wild.
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