The Humboldt penguin is a medium-sized black-and-white penguin. All of its upperparts, nape, forehead, throat and face are black, except for a white border stretching from its eye to around the ear-coverts, finally joining on its throat. The base of its bill is fleshy-pink. A black horseshoe shaped breast-band extends down its flanks to the thigh and the white belly is speckled with black spots.
El Niño effect
It is named after the cool Humboldt current, which was in turn named after the 19th century German geographer Alexander von Humboldt. This nutrient-rich current supports schools of anchovies which are the main source of food for the birds. However, the El Niño climatic condition has altered the ocean’s stream systems in the east Pacific near the equator. El Niño can cause not only complete breeding failure but also slumps in numbers of adult Humboldts.
Humboldt penguins can breed year-round, with the main peaks in May and July and from September to December, but reproductive success is low. Entrapment in fishing nets, and illegal capture for meat and for the pet trade are the primary threats to this species. The Humboldt penguin is now protected in Chile and Peru but only time will tell if these efforts can help revive its languishing numbers.
Together, we protect wildlife
Penguins in peril
The Chilean National Zoo has successfully raised chicks from eggs abandoned by wild nesting pairs – an effort to mitigate threats faced by this species in the wild. Do support such conservation projects and community efforts to engage local fishermen and ecotourism outfits in the protection of this bird.