Humboldt Penguin

Humboldt Penguin



COMMON NAME: Humboldt penguin, Peruvian penguin
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
ORDER: Sphenisciformes
FAMILY: Spheniscidae
GENUS SPECIES: Spheniscus humboldti


DESCRIPTION: 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.
SIZE: 56 to 66 cm (22-26 in.)
WEIGHT: 4 kg (9 lb.)
DIET: Anchovetta (small fish)
INCUBATION: 40 to 42 days
SEXUAL MATURITY: 2 to 7 years old
LIFE SPAN: 15 to 20 years
RANGE: Islands off western South America, and along the coasts of Peru and Chile
HABITAT: Burrow and create nesting sites in guano deposits on islands or along rocky shores.
POPULATION: GLOBAL 3,300 to 12,000 mature individuals
STATUS: IUCN Vulnerable
CITES Appendix I (endangered)
USFWS Not listed


1. Studies have found that adult Humboldt penguins travel long distances between feeding and breeding grounds.
2. Humboldt penguins were named for the German scientist, Alexander Von Humboldt, who explored Cuba, Mexico, and South America in 1799.
3. Humboldt penguins burrow and create nesting sites in guano (fecal) deposits.
4. For more information about penguins, explore the PENGUIN INFOBOOK.


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.