With over 200,000 breeding pairs, Punta Tombo, Argentina is home to largest Magellanic penguin colony in the world. The penguins arrive at Punta Tombo in early September to begin their reproductive cycle. They will stay at the colony until their chicks are reared and they have completed a molt. Breeding adult penguins depart the colony in April and May, migrating north for the winter. For over 30 seasons, Boersma and her field crew, students, and volunteers have collected an immense amount of data, banded over 60,000 penguins, and followed penguin lives in detail. Every October and January since 1987, the field crews have counted active nests around stakes spaced 100 meters apart throughout the 210-hectare colony to detect trends in the population. The project’s research scientists and students study biology, ecology, foraging, reproduction, behavior, physiology, genetics, and climate change. For more information about the Magellanic Penguin Project, click on the link above.
Photographs can serve as an important tool in research and conservation. Through photograph sharing we can enhance our understanding of the Galápagos penguin’s breeding, molt cycle, population, and prey. The iGalápagos project involves tourists, guides, and residents of the Galápagos by asking them to share their photos and videos of penguins. Have a photo you would like to share? Click here to learn how.
A lack of quality nest sites may limit Galápagos penguin reproductive success. In the hopes of increasing breeding and improving reproductive success, we built 120 nest sites out of lava. So far we’ve shown that Galápagos penguins will use constructed nests and that the nests they use are located close to natural penguin nests. Of the 120 nests that we created on predator-free islands in September 2010, two nests had breeding pairs when we returned in July 2011. One had eggs and the other had a newly hatched chick. During the same period, we found only one natural nest in use. During a survey of Isabela and Fernandina in July 2011, only one natural nest was found in use. In October 2011, that nest had been taken over by another pair and had eggs. Having different pairs in the same nest in July and in October is consistent with nest sites being extremely limited. Many of the natural sites Dr. Boersma found in the early 1970s were in use in 2010. Creating shaded nest sites works. Building inexpensive, lava nest sites for Galápagos penguins may be a simple intervention to increase their breeding and reproductive success when conditions are favorable. We need to demonstrate the effectiveness of the intervention and increase the penguin population in places that are free of introduced predators.
Click here to subscribe our bi-annual Penguin Sentinels newsletter.