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Humboldt Penguin

Humboldt Penguin at the
Milwaukee County Zoo
 The Humboldt Penguin shares its namesake with a Squid, a Skunk, a Dolphin, several plants, a handful of geological features, a few cities and counties, and more parks than I can even quantify (I have actually lived within in mile or so of two Humboldt Parks in two different states... weird). The Mr. Humboldt in question is Alexander von Humboldt, a late 18th-early19th century German naturalist and explorer who traveled extensively throughout South and Central America from 1799-1804. But his entire biography is something to perhaps be covered another day (Theme Week: Famous naturalists perhaps?)

Humboldt Penguins are a relatively warm weather species. They live off of the coasts of Peru and Chile (and are sometimes referred to as "Peruvian Penguins." They can be identified by the black band of feathers that run across the chest, and the splotchy pink skin patches on the face. Like all Penguins they have hydrodynamic torpedo-shaped bodies, powerful paddle-like wings, and webbed feet that allow them to move underwater at speeds of up to 30mph. They eat small fish, squid, and crustaceans.

The species has a pretty interesting nesting habit... they build their burrows in dried guano (poop!) that is left on the rocks by other seabirds. They breed throughout the year, and many pairs remain monogamous through their lifetimes. Two eggs are laid at once, and both parents incubate them and feed the hatched chicks.

Sadly, the Humboldt Penguin is on the decline. Though they have lived on the South American coast for thousands of years, this last century has been particularly unkind to them. Overfishing of the area, introduced predators, habitat loss, and climate change have all played a part in reducing the population. In addition to these factors, the harvesting of guano for fertilizer has damaged the breeding sites. It is estimated that there are around 12,000 breeding pairs in the wild. Thankfully the local governments and international organizations are working to protect the breeding colonies, and to breed the Penguins in captivity.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : South America
Size : Body Length around 28in (70cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Sphenisciformes
Family : Spheniscidae -- Genus : Spheniscus -- Species : S. humboldti


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