ENDANGERED: Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)
The Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a small species of penguin that is found exclusively on the Galapagos Islands, which are located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. It is the only penguin species that is found north of the equator.
The Galapagos Penguin is the smallest penguin species after the Little Penguin and is adapted to warmer climates. It has black and white plumage, with a distinctive narrow white stripe extending from its eye to the back of its head. Adults typically reach a length of around 49 cm (19 in) and a weight of 2.5 kg (5.5 lb).
Galapagos Penguins are primarily found on the western side of the Galapagos Islands, where cold ocean currents from the south bring nutrient-rich water that supports their prey. They feed primarily on small fish and crustaceans, which they catch by diving to depths of up to 15 meters (50 feet).
Unfortunately, the Galapagos Penguin is considered an endangered species, with an estimated population of only around 1,200 individuals. Threats to their survival include climate change, which is causing ocean temperatures to rise and affecting the availability of food, as well as predation by introduced species such as feral cats and rats. Conservation efforts are underway to protect the species, including habitat restoration, predator control, and monitoring programs.
Galapagos Penguins are unique among penguins in that they do not build nests. Instead, they use cavities in rocky areas or volcanic fissures to lay their eggs. The female typically lays two eggs, which are incubated by both parents for a period of about 38–40 days.
Once the chicks hatch, they are brooded by the parents for the first few weeks of their lives. After this, the chicks form groups called “creches,” which are tended by a few adult birds while the others go out to sea to feed. The chicks are fed by regurgitation, with both parents taking turns to bring back food. The chicks fledge, or leave the nest, at around 60–65 days old.
Galapagos Penguins have a relatively low reproductive rate, with only one or two chicks surviving to fledging age per breeding season. This makes them vulnerable to population declines, especially in the face of threats such as habitat loss and predation. Conservation efforts to protect the species often focus on promoting successful breeding and raising chicks to adulthood.
Galapagos National Park is responsible for managing and protecting the Galapagos Islands, including the penguin’s habitat. The park has implemented a number of conservation measures to protect the penguins, including monitoring programs, habitat restoration, and predator control.
*Autorstwa putneymark — originally posted to Flickr as Galapagos penguin Isabela Elizabeth Bay, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3876160
*Autorstwa Charles J Sharp — Praca własna, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19033481
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