The Galápagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a species of penguin.
The Galápagos penguin is the only penguin that lives north of the equator.
Compared with other penguin species, the population is small, numbering no more than a few thousand individuals.
Like other penguins, Galapagos penguins live in coastal areas where they can nest on land and hunt in the offshore waters.
These birds rest on sandy shores and rocky beaches and nest on areas of sheltered coast.
Galapagos penguins can live for 15 to 20 years. Because of high mortality rates due to predation, starvation, climatic events, and human disturbance, most Galapagos penguins do not live to such ages.
The Galápagos penguin is the second smallest species of penguin after the little penguin.
This species of penguin average about 53 cm (about 21 inches) in length and weigh from 1.7 to 2.6 kg (about 4–6 pounds), males being slightly larger than females.
They have black-grey upperparts and whitish underparts, with two black bands across the breast, the lower band extending down the flanks to the thigh.
Galápagos penguins are characterized by the presence of a narrow C-shaped band of white feathers that extends from the eye to the chin on each side of the head and a single band of black feathers that cuts across the large region of white feathers on the breast.
Galápagos penguins live in large social colonies of several hundred individuals.
Galápagos penguins often hunt in groups; they pursue their prey in the water and capture them from the side or from below.
Galápagos penguins are carnivores. They feed on small fish such as mullet and sardines and sometimes crustaceans. They will dive to a depth of 30 to 50 meters (100 to 165 feet) to catch their prey.
They are dependent on the ocean currents to bring fish to their feeding grounds. The strong and rich currents in the region ensure that the diurnal animals are able to find plenty of food in the water when they’re out in the daytime.
Galápagos penguins breed continuously throughout the year. The penguins are generally monogamous throughout their lifetimes. Female lays one or two eggs each year in places such as caves and crevices, protected from direct sunlight, which can lead to the eggs overheating.
As in most penguin species, both parents share responsibilities for the care of the egg and chicks. They incubate the eggs, and then provide for their chicks by alternating feeding and guarding duties on a daily basis until the chicks are 30 days old. The chicks continue to remain in the nest when they are between 30 and 60 days of age, sustained by periodic feedings by their parents. The fledging period continues until the chicks are 60–65 days old, and they become completely independent at age 3–6 months.
Unlike most other penguin species, Galapagos penguin chicks do not join “crèches” (groups).
Because of the Galápagos penguin’s smaller size, it has many predators. On land, the penguins are preyed upon by crabs, snakes, cats, Galapagos hawks, and short-eared owls. While in the water they are preyed upon by sharks, fur seals, and sea lions.
They face many hazards due to humans, as well as the hazards of unreliable food resources and volcanic activity.
Penguins are also threatened by pollution, bycatch and climate change.
Galapagos penguins have been listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species since 2000.