One million penguins gather in Argentina to feast on abundant fish before migrating

The gathering is a welcome sight for conservationists who say the Magellanic penguins are a threatened species

Rachael Revesz
New York
Saturday 18 February 2017 17:41
Over one million penguins gather in Argentina

More than one million South American penguins have descended upon Argentina’s Punta Tombo peninsula to migrate, according to local officials.

The gathering is a record high, they say, thanks to a recent abundant supply of fish.

What has become the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins will be quite a spectacle for the tens of thousands of people who visit the reserve every year.

Officials say the small islets along the peninsula are ideal for the penguins to nest and feast on fish such as sardines and anchovies, and small crustaceans, near the shoreline. The warm-weather, flightless birds breed in large colonies in southern Argentina and Chile.

They migrate as far as Brazil between March and September, then come ashore in September or October so that males and females can take turns to look after their eggs and hunt for food.

Tourism experts advise visitors to come see the penguins after November, once the babies are born, although critics say that increased tourist activity can trigger stressful, psychological reactions in newborn chicks.

Penguin families mostly live under the shelter of bushes on the islets or make small burrows, but will walk across the shore to bring back food.

The birds stand about 50 centimeters (20 inches) tall, and they have a distinct small area of pink flesh on the face.

These penguins are also recognizable by their broad crescent of white feathers which extend from the eyebrow to the chin.

Despite the large gatherings every year, the species is threatened due to climate change, oil spills and the decline of fish populations, meaning that the birds have to swim much further to hunt.

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