Magellanic penguins are temperate climate penguins which inhabit the coastal regions of Chile and Argentina. They are named after the Portuguese explorer Magellan who first saw them in the 16th century on his voyage around South America. These penguins are one of three species to inhabit the South American continent. The others are the Humboldt Penguin and the Galapagos Penguin. They are similar to the South African 'Cape' penguins. These species are not Antarctic birds and are not to be found in Antarctica or sub-Antarctic regions.
They belong to a group of penguins, the Spheniscus Genus, which means 'wedge-shaped' and refers to the distinctive banded coloration. They have distinctive white and black band like markings on their heads, and a horseshoe shaped band around their front which extends almost to their feet. They feed on squid and other fish and nest in burrows under rocks or bushes near the shores. Their nesting sites are temporary, though, and they breed during the period from September to February. As a protection against the hot weather, they discard the feathers around their eyes and face during the summer.
These penguins swim south to their breeding colony (rookery) in September. Mating and nesting takes place by early October and generally 2 eggs are laid. Incubation takes about 40 days and the parents share the incubation duties. The eggs hatch around the end of November, just as the weather is becoming warm and one or both chicks are raised. The plumage which the chicks produce after a week or so is their mesoptile plumage which is a fine downy light brown fur. This is very protective but they are unable to enter the water with this type of plumage. After about two months, they moult this and it is replaced with the black and white dense feather plumage typical of the species. Then they are taken to the sea and learn to feed themselves.
These pictures show the largest rookery of Magellanic Penguins in the world (Punta Tombo in Argentinian Patagonia) where there are about 400,000 birds. The pictures were taken in September 2006 when they were preparing to mate. Other pictures show a smaller colony near Punta Arenas in Southern Chile and were taken in January 2006. At that time the chicks were getting ready to leave their burrows and were beginning to lose their mesoptile plumage.