Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Magdalena Island and Penguins. . . . . . . .

Punta Arenas, Chile
March 11, 2018
57F Cloudy skies

Located in the Magallanes Region, we anchored off the capital Punta Arenas
 for the morning excursion to the Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve. 

The uninhabited island, with just the lighthouse, was declared a national
 monument in 1982 - Los Pinguinos Natural Monument - and is a breeding
 location for several species of seabirds, most notably the Magellanic penguin. 
The colony on the island has been monitored since 1998 and was estimated to
 hold 63,000 breeding pairs in 2007.

Following a smooth overnight sail, we had an early arrival and the ship anchored off shore. 
By 7:30 am we were on Zodiacs heading for a dry landing at Pratt Pier where
 buses were waiting and took us on a short drive to the ferry pier. 
Our chartered ferry, above, then headed north into the Strait of Magellan for an
 easy landing onto Magdalena Island. It was comfortable walk up the hillside - scattered
 with penguins and their burrows - toward the lighthouse which contained some interesting
historical displays about the area.

We followed a well-formed trail, the usual 'Penguin Highway' where these adorable 
birds always have the right of way. They are curious and will approach if you walk quietly
 and calmly, but will retreat to their burrows, or try to reach the water, if they feel threatened.

The 'lookout' penguin perhaps - keeping an eye out for visitors from
 Punta Arenas across the water.


The Magellanic penguin is the largest of the warm-weather penguins. This penguin was named after Ferdinand Magellan who first saw them in 1519 on his first voyage around the tip of South America. Like its three other closely related relatives in the Spheniscus genus, the Magellanic penguin has black-to-brown shading on its back and white colouring on its breast and trunk. The Magellanic penguins chests have scattered black spots.
Magellanic Penguin
The Magellanic penguin can be distinguished from Humboldt and African penguins by the two bands crossing its front. One band is a wide black strip under the chin and another is in the shape of an upside down horseshoe on the stomach. In Humboldt penguins, this band is somewhat incomplete and in African penguins it is absent. Magellanic Penguins have very dense feathers: more than 70 per square inch. Their feathers have oil on them, for waterproofing.
Their ‘tuxedo’ attire not only gives them a somewhat comical air, but it also helps hide them from predators. Their white belly blends in with the bright sun on land, while their black back blends in with the dark ocean waves. Magellanic Penguins stand about 27 inches (70 centimetres) tall and weigh about 9 pounds (4 kilograms). During the warmer weather of the breeding season Magellanic penguins lose the feathers around their eyes. When it starts to get cold again the feathers grow back.

Unlike the species of penguins I saw in Antarctica and on South Georgia Island, these 
little guys pair up, lay two eggs, and then raise their young in land burrows - several of
 which contained their growing babies. A lot of moulting of the adults was going on
 whereas the youngsters had already shed their baby fluff and had smooth new
 feathers, soon ready for swimming.

A curious Baby Magellanic penguin.

Parents guarding their burrow.


Breeding season for the Magellanic penguins is from late September to early February when adults come to shore to establish nesting sites within loose colonies. Naturally shy and seclusive on land, mated pairs nest in deep burrows (often hiding there when disturbed) where the female lays two eggs. Both the male and female share in the responsibility of caring for the chicks, often taking shifts lasting ten to fifteen days while the other hunts for food. The eggs take five to six weeks to hatch and the chicks will stay in the burrow for another month when they will molt into their adult feathers. At 60 to 70 days old the chicks are ready to head out to sea.

How can one not love these marvelous birds.
Just the fact that they can't fly off makes one take far too many photos!

True love! I'm sure this pair are thinking about taking their offspring swimming soon!

Next post on the expedition will be a rainy day through the extremely narrow
 Kirke Passage as we headed to Puerto Natales.


  1. Aren't the penguins comical! I'd love to see them.

  2. Curiously I am watching a wonderful series about Patagonia on TV at the moment, and just this afternoon there was a programme about the Megellanic Penguins. Apparently there's lots of arguing and fighting surrounding who gets what burrow. When they fight they even draw blood from the small amount of flesh around their beaks before they all eventually settle down and get on with the job of breeding. Love the photo of the'true love' penguins.

  3. The penguins are adorable. I've never seen them in the wild but have seen them at St Louis Zoo where they have a special and very cold area dedicated to penguins. They are quite cheeky and will purposefully dive into the water with a big splash if they see anyone standing near.

  4. How wonderful to be so up close to them.

  5. Oh the penguins are quite wonderful. How sweet that they pair up and stick together. What an amazing adventure so far.

  6. Just this week we watched a television program about penguins, not the Magdalena Island ones, but the Antarctic variety. Fascinating creatures, and so appealing because of their shape, colouring, and the way they move. Wonderful post, Mary.

  7. It is great that we can all share your adventure - from the comfort of an armchair, if we like! I think I'd love a cruise some time, I've never really been on one. But I must admit I would miss the walking and hiking, even though I guess you can do that, too, during land visits.


I would enjoy reading your comment - thanks so much for stopping by.