Magellanic Penguin Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Magellanic penguin
Genus Species
Spheniscus magellanicus

Fast Facts

Temperate penguins (genus Spheniscus), such as the Humboldt and Magellanic, have unfeathered fleshy areas on the face and one or two distinct black stripes across the chest.
61 to 71 cm (24 to 28 in.)
5 kg (11 lbs.)
Small fishes (e.g. anchovies, etc.), crustaceans, and squid
40 to 42 days
Clutch Size
2 eggs
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 4 years old
Life Span
15 to 20 years
Temperate regions of southern South America
Nests on cliff faces, grassy shoreline areas, or in burrows
Between 1.1 and 1.6 million pairs
IUCN: Near Threatened
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

The discovery of South America's Magellanic penguin was chronicled during the journey of Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1520.

Predators include Southern sea lions, leopard seals, Patagonian foxes, and killer whales. Eggs and chicks face predators such as kelp gulls and lesser grisons.

An unpaired, adult Magellanic penguin makes a braying sound, like a donkey, when looking for a mate.

The origin of the word "penguin" has been a subject of debate. Researchers' and historians' theories range from references to the amount of fat (penguigo in Spanish and pinguis in Latin) penguins possess to the claim that the word was derived from two Welsh words meaning "white head." The most agreed-upon explanation is that "penguin" was used as a name for the now-extinct great auk, which the modern-day penguin resembles and for which it was mistaken.

The closet living relatives to penguins are in the order Procellariiformes (the albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels) and the order Gaviiformes. DNA studies also suggest a relationship with the frigatebirds (order Pelecaniformes).

For more information about penguins, explore the Penguins InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

All 18 species of penguin 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).

Threats to Magellanic penguins include overfishing of anchovies (a primary food source), habitat destruction and pollution. Due to their long migrations to reach their breeding grounds, Magellanic penguins are known to be soaked by oil as they swim through heavily travelled ocean shipping lanes. Argentinian legislation passed in 1997 moved oil tanker lanes 40 km further offshore greatly reducing the number of oiled penguins.  Marine protection zones were also established along coastlines to protect Magellanic breeding and foraging activities.


2011. "Spheniscus magellanicus" (On-line). IUCN Red List. Accessed November 2, 2011 at

LaMarre, V. 2011. "Spheniscus magellanicus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 02, 2011 at

BirdLife International 2018. Spheniscus magellanicus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22697822A132605485. Downloaded on 04 March 2020.