Humboldt Penguin

Category: Sea Life

Humboldt penguins are named after the Humboldt current in which they swim. These penguins live off the coasts of Chile and Peru.

Humboldt Penguin

Humboldt Penguin

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Aves

Order - Sphenisciformes

Family - Spheniscidae

Genus - Spheniscus

Species - S. humboldti

Common Names – Chilean Penguin, Peruvian Penguin, Patranca


Like most penguins, especially those in the genus Spheniscus, Humboldt penguins are predominantly black and white in color. Their faces are black with a white border, they backs are black and their underparts are mostly white, with a dark band that goes across their chest. They have areas of pink flesh near the eyes and at the base of the beak. Humboldt penguins average about two feet in length and can weigh up to 13 lbs.


Humboldt penguins create nests in caves and on rocks, and they are made mostly of guano, which is a nice way of saying "penguin poop". In captivity, Humboldt penguins have been observed to "adopt" eggs that have been abandoned by their mothers. The adoptive penguin parents will incubate the eggs and raise the young after they hatch.


Humboldts feed on small fish and squids, and will travel over large distances when food supply becomes scarce. Though they spend much of their time swimming in the cold waters of the Humboldt current, they breed in the relatively warm coasts of western South America.


The Humboldt was long exploited for its guano, which was used as fertilizer in agricultural applications. This practice harmed Humboldt populations, but declined after the invention of synthetic fertilizers. Humboldts are popular attractions at zoos and aquariums. In 2012, a Humboldt penguin made a daring escape from the Tokyo Sea Like Park in Japan. It was recaptured after 185 days on the loose.

Present status

Humboldt penguins are listed as "Vulnerable" and their numbers are currently estimated to be somewhere between 3,300 and 12,000 individuals. In addition to the historic guano harvesting which harmed their ability to nest and breed, Humboldts are facing habitat destruction and threats from invasive species.