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Manchots de Humbolt © MNHN - F-G Grandin

The Humboldt penguin

The Humboldt penguin, Spheniscus humboldti, is a bird which "flies under the water" and lives in the coastal areas of South America.


Class, order and family :
Aves, Sphenisciformes, Spheniscidae
Life span :
up to 20 - 30 years in captivity
Size & Weight :
65 - 70 cm and 3.5 - 5 kg
Incubation :
40 - 42 days, 1 – 2 eggs
Natural habitat :
coastal areas
Diet :
piscivore – fish and crustaceans
Native region :
South America, particularly in Chile and Peru
Statut UICN : 

Vulnerable (VU)


This species has no actual laying period, but reproduces according to the amount of food available. The bird digs a burrow in the sand or the guano, or looks for a cavity beneath the stones. The female generally lays two eggs and both parents take it in turns to sit on them for forty days or so. The chicks stay with either of the parents until they are two months old. The youngsters keep their downy plumage for around three months and replace it with adult feathers shortly afterwards. They reach sexual maturity at around three years of age.

Distinctive features

The penguin has black spots on its white belly which differ from one penguin to the next and enable them to be identified.
This bird cannot fly, but its torpedo-shaped body, its wings with their short waterproof feathers and its webbed feet make it a champion swimmer, capable of diving underwater to depths of up to 100 metres. It uses its feet as a rudder and its wings act as paddles, driving it forwards like flippers. With its excellent underwater vision, it swoops upon its prey, swallowing fish whole, always head first.


When they have hatched, the fluffy grey chicks are huddled together in nursery groups while their monogamous parents go off to fish.

Humboldt penguins

Les autres animaux de la biozone Patagonia biozone