Humboldt Penguin Humboldt Penguin
Humboldt Penguin

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Humboldt penguin, Peruvian penguin
Genus Species
Spheniscus humboldti

Fast Facts

Like other temperate penguins, Humboldt penguins have bare patches of skin around their eyes and at the base of the bill. They also lack feathers on their legs. They have one black stripe across the base of their chest.
56 to 66 cm (22 to 26 in.)
4 kg (9 lbs.)
Anchovetta (small fish)
40 to 42 days
Sexual Maturity
2 to 7 years old
Life Span
15 to 20 years
Islands off western South America, and along the coasts of Peru and Chile
Burrow and create nesting sites in guano deposits on islands or along rocky shores.
32,000 mature individuals
IUCN: Vulnerable
CITES: Appendix I (endangered)
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

Studies have found that adult Humboldt penguins travel long distances between feeding and breeding grounds.

Humboldt penguins were named for the German scientist, Alexander Von Humboldt, who explored Cuba, Mexico, and South America in 1799.

Humboldt penguins burrow and create nesting sites in guano (fecal) deposits.

For more information about penguins, explore the Penguin InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

Significant threats to Humboldt penguins include overfishing of prey species, drowning in gill nets, guano harvesting, human interference, and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. The 1982-83 ENSO caused a 65% depletion of the Humboldt population off the coast of Peru. The population partially recovered, but subsequently plummeted again during the 1997-98 El Niño event.

SeaWorld San Diego is a “Participating Institution” in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Humboldt penguins. The SSP is a captive propagation and management program to preserve, in zoos and aquariums, selected species — most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild.

All 18 penguin species are legally protected from hunting and egg collecting. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 makes it illegal to harm, or in any way interfere with, a penguin or its eggs. Every penguin specimen collected with a permit must be approved by and reported to the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR). Penguins are vulnerable to habitat destruction, overfishing of primary food sources, ecological disasters such as oil spills, pollution such as trash in the ocean, and human encroachment into nesting areas.


BirdLife International (2006) Species factsheet: Spheniscus humboldti. Downloaded from

Coats, Judith. Penguins: Flightless Birds of the Southern Hemisphere. SeaWorld Education Department, 2001.

Nuzzolo, Debbie. Penguin March. SeaWorld Education Department, 2002.

BirdLife International 2018. Spheniscus humboldti . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22697817A132605004. Downloaded on 11 March 2020.