Who doesn’t love an adorable penguin!? With their waddling gait, cute cries, and whimsical personalities, they are loved the world over, and Chile is one of the best places to see several species of penguins up close and personal.
So to celebrate World Penguin Day, enjoy these facts about Chile’s favorite flightless birds (sorry, Lesser Rhea).
- There are 5 species of penguins that live in Chile: King, Humboldt, Magellanic, Rockhopper, and Macaroni penguins.
- Did you know you don’t have to go all the way to the south of Chile to see penguins? Penguins in Chile can be found as far north as La Serena, which is about a 5 hour drive from Santiago.
- Magellanic penguins were named after Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who discovered the penguins on his historic 1520 circumnavigation of the globe. The Magellan Strait in Tierra del Fuego is also named after him.
- Wonder where the Macaroni penguin got its name? Well, if you’re familiar with the popular tune “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, you’ll know the line “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”. In mid-18th century England, “macaroni” was slang for flamboyant dress and fashion, so the Macaroni penguin was named for this due to the crown of gold feathers that splay out from its head. Very macaroni, indeed.
- Macaroni and rockhopper penguins belong to the same genus of penguins known as crested penguins, distinguishable by the gold feathers on their heads.
- In 1990, Chile created the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve, protecting three islands in northern Chile that are important breeding grounds for the endangered Humboldt penguin.
- King penguins, which can be seen in southern Chile, are the second biggest penguins in the world, behind emperor penguins.
- The King Penguin Park in Tierra del Fuego was originally founded to protect 8 individuals who chose the spot for breeding, which was rare as king penguins mostly breed and live further south, and this colony is the only place to see king penguins outside the Sub-Antarctic islands. Now, roughly 150 penguins live there.
- The Magellanic penguin colony on Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas is home to more than 120,000 penguins!
- Magellanic and Humboldt penguins can also be found on the islands of Chiloe in the Lake District.
- There was a Penguin Revolution in Chile! It’s not what it sounds like though; in 2006, when Chilean students were protesting the educational system, it became known as the “penguin revolution” because of the black and white outfits the students wore.
- Chile is estimated to be the home of 20,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins.
- Magellanic, Macaroni, Humboldt, and Rockhopper penguins all lay two eggs, but the king penguin only lays one.
- Every kind of penguin in Chile except for the King penguin is either endangered or listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is due mainly to oil spills, loss of fish populations from overfishing and climate change, and ocean acidification.
- Penguins are some of the most beloved wildlife in Chile, and their likeness has been used on a specialty stamp series for the post office of the Chilean-Antarctic territory.
Join us on one of our penguin viewing tours to discover these cute waddlers for yourself!