Galápagos Penguin

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image: galapagospenguin.jpg

Common Name: Galápagos Penguin Penguin
Scientific Name: Spheniscus mendiculus

Size: 19.6 inches (50 cm)

Habitat: Galápagos Islands. Mainly found on Fernandina Island and on the west coast of Isabella Island, but small populations are also found scattered on other islands in the Galapagos archipelago.

Status: Endangered. Global Population: 1,800 mature individuals. One of the world's rarest penguins. In recent decades, this species has been influenced primarily by the effects of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the availability of shoaling fish. This had been most evident in 1982-83 and 1997-98, when the penguin population underwent dramatic declines of 77 % and 65 %, respectively. After this, the population entered a slow recovery phase and annual penguin censuses indicate a relatively stable, and even slightly increasing, population trend over the last nine years, however the current population size is still 48 % below the pre-El Niño population levels. Recovery from the 1982-1983 ENSO may have been slowed by the lower frequency of La Niña cold water events and above average surface water temperatures. Also, ENSO may have a disproportionate impact on females, which could result in a biased sex ratio, making population recovery slower.

Climate change may lead to an increase in the frequency of ENSO events in the future, which will also reduce the species’ resilience to other threats such as disease outbreaks, oil spills, or predation by introduced predators.

Local fishing boats operating in inshore waters in the western part of the archipelago are documented as incidentally drowning Galápagos Penguins due to floating nets and illegally-used bait fisheries in gill nets. Recent plans to establish longline fisheries in the Galápagos raises additional concern. Aside from the impact of by-catch caused by this technique, in the case of Galápagos Penguins, it is likely that an increasing demand for bait fish will dramatically increase inshore bait fisheries with all its associated problems.

Predation by introduced cats (Felis catus) on the Galápagos Penguin population at its main breeding site resulted in adult mortality of 49 % year-1 4. Also, mosquitoes (Culex quinquefasciatus) arrived on the Galápagos in the 1980s as a result of human actions. Since they are vectors for avian malaria, and penguins in the genus Spheniscus are highly susceptible to this disease these insects represent a potential new threat for the penguins. Many of the above threats are exacerbated by an expanding human population and pressure from tourists visiting the islands.

Diet: Small fish including mullet and sardines.

Nesting: Galapagos Penguins pair up for life and they will breed 2 - 3 times per year if food is plentiful. They lay 1 - 2 eggs in a cave or rock crevice to protect them from the sunlight. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 38 - 40 days but if both eggs hatch, only one chick is ever raised.

One parent always remains with the eggs or chick while the other one leaves to feed. For 30 days after hatching both parents tend to the chick and by the end of the 30 days the chick is able to be left while both adults go to sea.

When the chick is 60 - 65 days old they have molted and are ready to fledge. Females reach sexual maturity at 3 - 4 years of age and males at 4 - 6 years of age.

Cool Facts: Galapagos Penguins are the only penguin to live on the equator. They live 15-20 years

Predators of Galapagos Penguins and their young include crabs, snakes, birds of prey, cats, dogs, rats, sharks, seals and sea lions.

Included in Songbird ReMix Penguins

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