Did you know that the Galápagos penguin is the only penguin species found north of the Equator?
Galápagos penguins are a rare and endangered species, and they are very active during the cool season. This September visit Bartolomé or Bartholomew Island where small penguins playfully dive into the turquoise waters surrounding the island!
Galápagos penguins are smaller and thinner than other species of penguins. They weigh about 5.5 pounds and are only 19 inches long! Because of the warm weather in the archipelago, they don’t load up on great quantities of food for protective fat. Instead, they shed their feathers during the breeding period to keep their bodies cool under the hot Equatorial Sun. Other adaptations that allow the Galápagos penguin to thrive in the islands include panting, seeking shade, standing with extended flippers and the adoption of a sort of bent posture that provides their feet with shade.
During the month of September, you will likely observe these charming animals nesting! The reason they nest during this time of year is because the water is cooler. Throughout the cold season, penguins take advantage of the abundance of food to nest. However, higher surface temperature equals to water poor in nutrients, so when the water gets warm there tends to be a shortage of food and without the necessary resources, penguins delay their nesting.
The Galápagos are a biodiverse paradise where nature has found balance, and species have been able to thrive. Unfortunately the islands are affected by a warm water current known as El Niño. During El Niño events, the islands are surrounded by warm ocean waters, which has a direct effect on their marine ecosystem. The change in water temperature has contributed to a decline in Galápagos penguin populations, since there has been a loss of prey species and reduced breeding during the breeding period.
Sadly, estimates provided by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) show that the population of Galápagos penguins consists of fewer than 2.000! Besides El Niño phenomenon, these unique animals are threatened by climate change, pollution and illegal fishing. They are also affected by introduced species: dogs carry diseases that can spread to penguins while cats have become predators.
During your Galápagos adventures remember to keep the oceans clean and contribute to a future with penguins on the tropics!
Needless to say, these small creatures are definitely exceptional and their home above the equator is nothing less than rare! This September we invite you to appreciate this extraordinary species of flightless birds from the Galápagos Islands. Swim and dive next to these beauties, or observe as they nest on land!