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Spheniscus mendiculus

Galapagos Penguin

  • Order: Sphenisciformes
  • Family: Spheniscidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Carlson, Annica Lila, and Jens Steven Townsdin

Spheniscus mendiculus

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador; 18 May 2011 © Derek Keats

The most northerly member of its family, the Galapagos Penguin is endemic to the Galapagos archipelago, 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador. With a distribution that virtually straddles the equator, the Galapagos Penguin is able to survive at such a tropical latitude due to the cool, nutrient-rich waters of the Cromwell and Humboldt currents. Galapagos Penguins breed in loose colonies in the cracks and caves of the islands’ lava flows and feed close offshore on pelagic schooling fish, especially mullet. This species currently is considered Endangered, due to its extremely small population of about 2000, which has been drastically reduced in the past four decades. These reductions are primarily due to the increasing frequency of climatic perturbations, such as El Niño events, which reduce the strength of the cool currents on which the Galapagos Penguin depends for successful breeding.

Recommended Citation

Carlson, Annica Lila, and Jens Steven Townsdin. 2012. Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Resident (nonmigratory)
  • Primary Habitat:Coastal waters
  • Foraging Strata:Water (below surface)
  • Foraging Behavior:Surface dive
  • Diet:Fish
  • Sociality:Single-Species Flocks
  • Mating System:Monogamy
  • Nest Form:Scrape
  • Clutch: 2 - 2
  • IUCN Status:Endangered