12 things you may not know about the Galapagos penguin

Today is World Penguin Day, a day to celebrate all 17 species of penguins across the world. Penguins range in size, colour and population sizes; the most plentiful Macaroni penguin has approximately 9 million breeding pairs, where as the endangered Galapagos penguin has less than 1,000 breeding pairs. Penguins are famous for their comical waddle, their black and white coloration and their love of the snow and ice. But, the Galapagos penguin lives very far north of sub-zero Antarctica, so far north that they are the most northern dwelling penguin in the world, living right on the hot, humid equator where air temperatures often reach 30°C. Here are 12 more things you might not know about the Galapagos penguin!

1). The Galapagos penguin is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, and found no where else in the world.

2). The Galapagos penguin is the third smallest species of penguin in the world weighing only 2.2 kg when fully grown and reaching only 50cm in height.

3). To help them keep cool, Galapagos penguins pant like dogs and seek shade in the heat of the day.

4). They can also seen leaning over and placing their flippers over their feet as they walk on land. This is believed to be an effort to prevent the sunlight from burning their sensitive feet.

5). Rear-facing barbs line their bills help in swallowing their lunch, often a tasty sardine, whole.

6). They sleep with their flippers outward. Scientists think this is to prevent the heat from escaping their bodies at night.

7). Galapagos penguins are the only species of penguin without a clearly defined breeding season.

8). Penguins mate for life. They frequently reaffirm their bond by engaging in mutual preening and bill tapping.

9). Sometimes Galapagos penguins lay two eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 38-40 days but if both eggs hatch, only one chick is raised by the parents.

10). On land, the Galapagos penguin must keep an eye out for predators such as crabs, snakes, owls, and hawks. While in the water they must avoid being eaten by sharks, fur seals, and sea lions.

11). Galapagos penguins are black on top and white underneath. This colouration helps them to blend with the sea floor when seen from above and the sky when seen from below. This makes them much harder for predators to spot.

12). The main threats facing the Galapagos penguin include climate change, oil spills, plastic pollution, predation by introduced feral cats and introduced diseases such as avian malaria.

Galapagos Penguin © Pam Keeble

© Pam Keeble

Most importantly, there are less than 2,000 Galapagos penguins left in Galapagos. This year’s El Niño event will no doubt impact on the penguin population. As they are already incredibly endangered, they will need all the help they can get to survive through this uncertain time. We are currently raising funds to help protect the endangered Galapagos penguin and other species threatened by El Niño from extinction. If you would like to contribute towards the fund, please click here.