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Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus

This species has fluctuated in numbers in different parts of its range, but overall moderately rapid declines are thought to have been sustained and as a result it is listed as Near Threatened.

Taxonomic source(s)
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Distribution and population
Spheniscus magellanicus breeds on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America, in Argentina (at 63 sites), Chile (at least 10 locations), and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (Ellis et al. 1998), with some migrating north to southern Brazil (Frere et al. 1996). Vagrants have been found as far north as El Salvador in 2007 (O. Komar in litt. 2007), and south to Avian Island (67°, 46'S) on the Antarctic Peninsula (Barbosa et al. 2007), as well as Australia and New Zealand. The world population is estimated at 1,300,000 pairs: 950,000 along the Argentinian coast, 100,000+ in the Falklands (Malvinas) and 200,000+ in Chile (Ellis et al. 1998). Population trends differ between colonies. The two largest colonies in Argentina have both shown decreases during the last decade, but other small colonies have grown (Schiavini et al. 2005). In Argentina, the Caleta Valdes colony increased from two pairs in the early 1960s to 26,000 pairs in the early 1990s; the Isla Deseado colony more than doubled between 1986 and 1996; the colony at Punta Tumbo has decreased almost 30% since 1987 owing to higher juvenile and young adult mortality; and the Cabo Virgenes colony has remained stable for at least the last 10 years (Ellis et al. 1998). It is reported that the Falkland Islands colonies have declined almost 50% since the 1980s, but data are insufficient to substantiate this (R. Woods in litt. 1999, Pütz et al. 2001). Overall, trends are uncertain but there are significant declines in some areas and substantial mortality owing to a variety of ongoing threats.

Population justification
The world population is estimated at 1.3 million pairs: 950,000 along the Argentinian coast, at least 100,000 in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and at least 200,000 in Chile.

Trend justification
Overall population declines are thought to have been moderately rapid during the past three generations (27 years).

Magellanic Penguins tracked by satellite and global location sensor tags during incubation typically foraged more than 100 km, and sometimes as much as 600 km from various colonies in Argentina (Boersma et al. 2006). Individuals show high site fidelity, with nearly all birds returning to the colony in which they were born, and most adults using the same burrow year after year (Boersma 2009).

The main threat appears to be oil pollution, which was thought to kill more than 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year on the Argentinian coast (Gandini et al. 1994) (also the wintering ground for the Falklands population [Pütz et al. 2000]), although this threat is now much reduced. (I. C. T. Nisbet in litt. 2010). Mortality may increase in the future if petroleum extraction is developed offshore of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). The expanding Argentinian anchovy fishery may threaten the largest known colony at Punta Tumbo, and there is no mechanism to quantify the impact of the fishery (BirdLife 2007). Penguins are hunted for bait in Punta Arenas, Chile, and are often caught in fishing nets, particularly in Patagonia (Gandini et al. 1999, Yorio and Caille 1999). Fisheries may be having an additional effect, as bycatch includes juvenile hake and anchovy, which are an important part of the species's diet (Gandini et al. 1999, Pütz et al. 2001). Predation from foxes, rats and cats occurs on some islands. Egg-collection occurs at localised sites. El Niño Southern Oscillation events can cause range-wide disruption of breeding (Ellis et al. 1998). If precipitation regimes at nesting colonies change resulting in more than 2.5 inches of rain falling during a year, a possible consequence of climate change, most chicks will not survive due to burrow collapses and hypothermia (Boersma 2009). Tourism may also disturb individuals at breeding colonies (Boersma 2009).

Conservation Actions Underway
Radio-tracking has shown that breeding birds regularly travel long distances, and were found to be frequenting shipping lanes, where many birds were getting oiled. Changes in Chubut provincial law moved the shipping lane after the findings were given significant publicity, and thus the oiling threat has been somewhat reduced (Boersma in litt. 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct a population census in Chile. Monitor effect of the Argentinian anchovy fishery on the Punta Tumbo population. Reduce bycatch and oiling incidents.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Barbosa, A.; Ortega-Mora, L. M.; García-Moreno, F. T.; Valera, F.; Palacios, M. J. 2007. Southernmost record of the Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus in Antarctica. Marine Ornithology 35: 79.

BirdLife International. 2007. Species factsheet: erect-crested penguin Eudyptes sclateri. BirdLife Data Zone:

Boersma, D. 2009. The penguin maven. Wildlife Conservation 112(1): 34-39.

Boersma, P. D.; Redstock, G. A.; Stokes, D. L.; Majluf P. 2006. Oceans apart: conservation models for two temperate penguin species shaped by the marine environment. Marine Ecology Progress Series 335: 217-225.

Ellis, S.; Croxall, J. P.; Cooper, J. 1998. Penguin conservation assessment and management plan: report from the workshop held 8-9 September 1996, Cape Town, South Africa. IUCN/SSC, Apple Valley, USA.

Frere, E.; Gandini, P.; Boersma, P. D. 1996. Aspectos particulares de la biología de reproducción y tendencia poblacional del Pingüino de Magallanes Spheniscus magellanicus en la Colonia de Cabo Virgenes, Santa Cruz, Argentina. Hornero 14: 50-59.

Gandini, P. A.; Frere, E.; Pettovello, A. D.; Cedrola, P. V. 1999. Interaction between Magellanic Penguins and shrimp fisheries in Patagonia, Argentina. Condor 101(4): 783-798.

Gandini, P.; Boersma, P. D.; Frere, E.; Gandini, M.; Holik, T.; Lichstein, V. 1994. Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) affected by chronic petroleum pollution along coast of Chubut, Argentina. The Auk 111: 20-27.

Pütz, K.; Ingham, R. J.; Smith, J. G. 2000. Satellite tracking of the winter migration of Magellanic Penguins Spheniscus magellanicus breeding in the Falkland Islands. Ibis 142: 614-622.

Pütz, K.; Ingham, R. J.; Smith, J. G.; Croxall, J. P. 2001. Population trends, breeding success and diet composition of Gentoo, Magellanic and Rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands. Polar Biology 24: 793-807.

Schiavini, A.; Yorio, P.; Gandini, P.; Rey, A. R.; Boersma, P. D. 2005. Los pingüinos de las costas Argentinas: estado poblacional y conservación. Hornero 20(1): 5-23.

Yorio, P.; Caille, G. 1999. Seabird interactions with coastal fisheries in northern Patagonia: use of discards and incidental captures in nets. Waterbirds 22: 207-216.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Calvert, R., Clay, R., Lascelles, B., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J.

Boersma, P., Frere, E., Komar, O., Nisbet, I., Woods, R.W.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Spheniscus magellanicus. Downloaded from on 01/09/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 01/09/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Spheniscidae (Penguins)
Species name author (Forster, 1781)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,660,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species