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Humboldt Penguin

  • Order: Sphenisciformes
  • Family: Spheniscidae
  • Genus: Spheniscus
  • Species: humboldti
Fun Fact

The penguin has a supraorbital gland that enables it to drink salt water in addition to fresh water. The gland withdraws excess salt from the penguin’s blood and excretes it in a very concentrated solution that dribbles down the penguin’s bill.

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About Humboldt Penguins

The adult Humboldt penguin is about 26 inches tall and weighs about 9 pounds, which is roughly mid-sized of all penguin species. The Humboldt penguin is brown-black with a white front and is distinguished by a dark stripe across its front. The tuxedo color of the penguin is an adaptation that is called counter-shading. If a predator is below the penguin and it looks up, the penguin blends in with the bright light from above. If a predator is above the penguin and it looks down, the penguin blends in with the dark bottom. The male and the female penguin cannot be distinguished from one another without the aid of distinct behavioral cues (blood samples can also be used for distinction).

Humboldt penguins are also called Peruvian or jackass penguins, due to where they are found (Peru) and the noise that they make (which sounds like a donkey). Breeding season for these birds is year round. Penguins nest in pairs on the shore in rock burrows or near foliage. They nest in guano, piles of accumulated bird droppings. The parents also will line the nest with pebbles, pieces of wood, and fish bones. Humboldt penguins lay two eggs, but typically only one survives.

Humboldt Penguins in the Wild


Rocky coastline bordering cold, ocean water.


Humboldt penguins are warm climate penguins, unlike their Antarctic relatives. Humboldt penguins inhabit areas with more temperate climates like Peru and Chile.


Their diet consists of fish such as anchovies and pilchards.

Population Status

The Humboldt penguin is currently a “vulnerable” species. This is due primarily to commercial harvesting of guano for agricultural fertilizer. Without nesting locations, the Humboldt penguins are in serious danger of extinction. Some estimates indicate the possibility of extinction in the wild in the next 10 years.

Field Conservation

As conservationists, the Akron Zoo takes great strides toward improving environmental and ecological concerns, as well as the preservation of species. The Humboldt Penguin Conservation Program Punta San Juan monitors and assesses the overall health, well-being and safety of Humboldt penguins in Peru. Penguins are a sentinel species, meaning they are good indicators of healthy marine environments. This partnership aides in safeguarding the future for Humboldt penguins and their environment.

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