Nature, Science/Math

Presenting…the penguins

Photo by Finley

When most people think of penguins, they think of Antarctica: ice, cold and frigid snow. But, more than half of all penguin species live in more temperate climates, including the Megellanic penguins, which are the focus of a recently opened exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Our family is no stranger to these South American penguins. Last fall, Nils spent some time in Chile where he visited a penguin rookery, and emailed us some pictures of the penguins and their nesting grounds. Megellanic penguins are far smaller than the Emperor penguins most of us are familiar with. The South-American birds are about the size of a baby when full grown, measuring at most 2 1/2 feet tall and weighing up to 15 pounds. They feast on anchovies, krill, hake, cod, squid, but have reached “near threatened” status in recent years as fisheries compete for the same foods.

The penguins nest in the southern parts of Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. They often are faithful to the same mate and may use the same nest each year, as long as the nest is still intact. The World Conservation Society noted one penguin pair that stayed together for 16 years, more than half their lifespan!

Each October the female lays two eggs four days apart, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs, a process that takes a little over a month. Megallanic penguins lay on top of their eggs, warming them with their tummies. The penguins spend two to four months rearing the chicks near the nesting grounds before molting. While they are molting — a process that takes almost three weeks — the penguins have to stay on land and can’t fish. Once the molt is complete the colony migrates north to Brazil, Uruguay and northern Argentina for the winter, which is May-August in South America. Then they return again to their nesting grounds in the south, arriving in early September.

Are you ready for a dose of uber-cuteness? Check out the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Penguin cam….here.