New Colony of Penguins Discovered on a Remote Island in Argentina

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©. A Magellanic penguin on a bluff on Isla de los Estados. Photo: Ulises Balza

Celebrate Penguin Awareness Day on January 20th with the fabulous discovery of 'Near Threatened' Magellanic penguins.

January 20th is Penguin Awareness Day – and so it is with perfect timing that we get news from WCS researchers. They have discovered a new colony of Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) on a remote island in Argentina.

As with all too many of the planet's creatures, the Magellanic penguin is not particularly thriving. The medium-sized penguins with the wonderfully graphic markings are listed as “Near Threatened” on IUCN’s Red List. The total population is decreasing, thanks to climate change, fishing gear entanglement, overfishing of prey species, and oil spills, among other threats.

© A Magellanic penguin. Ulises Balza

Thus far there are more than 50 known colonies of Magellanic penguins, the largest colony is in the Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve which has been a protected area for more than 50 years. WCS explains that it has been supporting long-term research and "monitoring of the Magellanic penguin and works to conserve them by helping improve the management of commercial fisheries and of offshore drilling and the transport of oil in the Southeast Atlantic. WCS also works to protect core reproductive sites for the species in coastal Patagonia in order to ensure their long-term survival."

The discovery came about during a collaboration between WCS and the scientific research center, CADIC-CONICET. The researchers had been surveying a colony of rockhopper penguins when they stumbled upon nesting burrows characteristic of Magellanic penguins hidden in tall grasses.

Magellanic penguin
© Image of new colony location on Isla de los Estados with close-up of Magellanic penguin. WCS Argentina

They have not yet determined just how many penguins are there, but they have defined the perimeter of the new colony and have conducted a census to estimate the population size.

“Our team was incredibly excited to discover this new penguin colony," said Said Andrea Raya Rey, WCS associate researcher and on the staff of CADIC-CONICET. "The more colonies we know exist, the more we can advocate for their protection.”

penguin chicks
© Magellanic penguin adult and two chicks. Ulises Balza