Humboldt Penguin


Spheniscus humboldti

Status (IUCN v3.1)


Humboldt penguins are listed as endangered in Peru, and in Chile there is a 30-year moratorium on hunting and capturing them. Most areas where Humboldt penguins occur are protected areas. Protection of the Humboldts could be enhanced if they were listed as endangered. If this were the case, trade in guano and small fish may be more strictly controlled, because the harvesting of both can decrease population size.

Conservation Concerns

Guano harvest continues to affect Humboldt penguin breeding success, and is a problem that is not resolved. In Peru the harvest of guano is regulated in large colonies by the government. Guano harvest should be more strictly regulated or prohibited, and not just in large colonies but in all colonies. Fishing of species that are prey of Humboldt penguins should be restricted in areas where large numbers of penguins forage.

El Nino is expected to become worse with climate change, which will lead to smaller amounts of available prey.Research into climate change and its effects on the ocean are currently underway, and these may inform decisions about the conservation of the species in terms of El Nino reducing prey availability.

In addition, raising the endangerment listing should be considered because it could lead to better guano harvesting and fishing practices.




Population Trend


Descriptive Characteristics


Adult: Adults have black feathers on their backs and on the tops of their heads, and white feathers on their chests and stomachs. There is a black band that runs accross the chest and along the sides of the body. Males and females have the same plumage.

Juvenile: Most of the juvenile’s body is grey, with some white plumage on the stomach, chest, and chin.

Chick: Chicks have dark grey feathers over their entire bodies.


Females are slightly smaller than males in all measurements. The ratio of female to male bill depth is .89.


Weight: 5 kg
Height: 69.0 cm
Beak: 6.5 cm
Flipper: 17.4 cm
Foot: 11.7 cm


Weight: 4.2 kg
Height: 66.0 cm
Beak: 6.0 cm
Flipper: 16.5 cm
Foot: 11.1 cm


There are three calls Humboldt penguins commonly make: a bray with two or three different notes, a long call of a single note, and a grunt.

Breeding Biology


Average Arrival Date:  March 1
Average Egg Laying Date:  April 1
Incubation Period: 40 days
Chick Rearing Period:  63 days
Fledging Period:  July 1 – July 31
Average Annual Reproductive Success:  2.0 chick/nest
Nest: Nests are created by burrowing into guano, and the nests are lined with feathers.
Age at First Breeding: 2 years
Maximum Lifespan: 20 years
Egg Weight: 122.5 grams
Egg Length: 7.1 cm
Egg Breadth: 5.3 cm
Molt: Humboldt penguins molt in January and February. They spend three weeks fasting while they molt, and then spend two to three weeks recovering by foraging in the ocean. Individuals typically molt once a year.


Small fish such as sardines, anchovies, garfish, silverside, and herring.


On land, cats, foxes and caracaras prey upon adults, juveniles and chicks. In addition, rats and gulls eat eggs and chicks. At sea, killer whales, fur seals, sea lions and sharks eat adults, juveniles and fledglings.