Wednesday, December 4, 2013


On Friday, Mom went to the Kansas City Zoo.  And the main reason she went there was to see the penguins.  There didn't used to be penguins at the Kansas City Zoo, but in October a new exhibit called Helzberg Penguin Plaza opened, and Mom wanted to see it.  I wanted to see it, too, but dogs are NOT ALLOWED at the zoo, so I was forced to stay home and take a nap.

The new penguin exhibit will have four kinds of penguins in it:  Humboldt Penguins, King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, and Rockhopper Penguins.  Mom didn't see any Gentoo Penguins, so maybe they haven't arrived yet.  Or maybe Mom wasn't paying attention.  Anyway, Mom took some pictures of the penguins, and now I am going to tell you about them, starting with Humboldt Penguins.

Another name for the Humboldt Penguin is Peruvian Penguin, and its scientific name is Spheniscus humboldti.  These penguins live along the coast of Chile and Peru.  They get their name from a cold-water current that runs north from Antarctica.  This current was named after the Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt.

Humboldt Penguins are medium-sized, as penguins go.  They are 22" to 28" long and weigh between 8 and 13 pounds.  Their closest relatives are the African Penguin (which I already told you about), the Magellanic Penguin, and the Galápagos Penguin.

A nest made of guano
Photo by en:User:Acatenazzi,
La Vieja Island, Paracas National Reserve
Departamento Ica, Peru

The favorite places where Humboldt Penguins like to nest are on islands or rocky coasts.  Sometimes they scrape out nesting places in the ground or use caves.  But lots of times they make burrows in guano, which is seabird poop that has piled up over the years.  The foods they most like to eat are fish, squid, and crustaceans.

Humboldt Penguins might lay eggs any time between March and December.  Many pairs raise two broods in a single season.  It takes 40 to 42 days for the two eggs in the nest to hatch. The male and female penguins take turns keeping the eggs warm.  The main reasons for egg loss are flooding of nests during ocean storms, breakage, nest desertion, and gulls preying on the eggs.  The chicks hatch about 2 days apart, and then the parents go out looking for food. so they can feed their babies every day.  When the chicks have developed their adult feathers, they are ready to start life on their own.

Right now, the population of Humboldt Penguins is about 12,000 breeding pairs.  This number is much smaller than it used to be, which means this species of penguin is said to be THREATENED.  Some reasons why the Humboldt Penguins are dying off is because of climate change, ocean acidification, over-fishing, and habitat destruction.  Also, people have mined tons of guano because it is a good fertilizer with plenty of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium in it.

The Humboldt Penguin of Chile and Peru was given protection in August 2010 under the Endangered Species Act.  I hope this helps them not go extinct in the wild, because I think they're kind of cute!

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