NOT ON EXHIBIT
At the Aquarium
Some of the Magellanic penguins at the Aquarium were rescued and rehabilitated by Niteroi Zoo in Rio de Janeiro. In 2008, more than 700 birds were brought to the zoo to be nursed back to health. The penguins were exhausted, a few barely able to lift their heads. Scientists believe that climate variations altered ocean currents and where penguins could find food, requiring them to travel farther from shore. There, younger and inexperienced birds were taken by strong currents and ended up in Brazil, thousands of miles away from their home. In addition to being exhausted, about 200 penguins were coated with oil and seemed to be suffering from pollution-related illness. The Aquarium is providing a home to a few of these penguins.
The Aquarium’s Magellanic penguins enjoy human interaction and enrichments such as ball playing, diving for toys or playing with ice cubes. They even like to look in the mirror!
When Magellanic penguins aren't mating, nesting or growing new feathers, they're at sea. They’re faithful parents, remaining together as long as 16 years. They also alternate childcare responsibilities. While one forages at sea, the other remains at home. After these absences, they recognize each other through call alone.
Penguins are flightless seabirds, but they use their strong wings to “fly” underwater, diving as deep as 300 feet to catch their favorite fatty fishes.
All Magellanic penguins live around South America, off Chile and Argentina, and in the Falkland Islands. Some colonies include hundreds of thousands of raucous pairs.
Magellanic penguins depend on the cold, plankton-rich waters of the South Atlantic. When these waters warm, penguins may have to travel farther to find food. The farther penguins need to swim for food, the less likely they are to raise chicks. Scientists have found that if a breeding adult penguin has to travel more than about 220 miles to find food, its chick could starve before it returns. Penguins now are traveling about 37 miles farther to find food than they did a decade ago.
Magellanic penguins are considered “near threatened” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), primarily due to oil pollution.
Learn more about our “Hot Pink Flamingos” special exhibition.
Magellanic penguins are named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who first spotted them in 1520.
Young chicks lack the distinct black and white coloration of adults.
Penguins molt over a period of several weeks during which they’re confined to land.
Penguins can travel as far as 500 kilometers when foraging.