And no, it’s not a joke! These little black and white guys are in fact an endemic species of the archipelago: the Galapagos penguin.

Penguins exclusively endemic to the Galapagos Islands

This species was originally the same as the Humboldt penguin found in Chile, which, finding plenty of food in the cold currents of the Galapagos Islands, evolved to adapt to local conditions and became a subspecies in its own right.

Their population is concentrated on Fernandina Island and along the west coast of Isabela, particularly during the Galapagos warm season (January to May), as this part of the archipelago is the coolest. These two islands account for 95% of the Galapagos penguin population. The remaining 5% are distributed in smaller populations on the islands of Bartholomé, Santiago and Floreana, where some migrate during the cool, dry season (June to September).

But how can these penguins live in such a hot environment?

Firstly, thanks to the archipelago’s cold currents, in which the penguins dive to cool off. Secondly, to withstand the high temperatures that the archipelago can experience on land, penguins use two thermoregulation methods.

One is to stretch their wings and bend their backs forward to form a parasol over their feet, allowing them to evacuate heat through their flippers thanks to their blood circulation. The other is to pant, using evaporation to cool their throats and airways in the same way as dogs.

As for their eggs and young, they protect them from the sun by keeping them in the deep crevices of rocks. Penguins nest when sea surface temperatures fall below 24 degrees Celsius.

During El Niño episodes, when the climate and waters of the Galapagos become warmer, penguins drastically slow down their nesting. Food is scarcer, making it much harder to feed a chick during these periods.

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Galapagos penguins live between 15 and 20 years.

Galapagos penguins are monogamous, staying with the same partner throughout their lives, and can sometimes be seen preening each other’s feathers.

Their family ties are very strong, and chicks stay with their parents, who feed and care for them until they reach adulthood.


Galapageño penguins are excellent fishers, reaching a top speed of 35 km/h in the water, and can dive to depths of 30 meters (and without a tank!).

They have no teeth, but rather sharp ridges on their tongues that enable them to swallow their prey once caught.

This is the second-smallest penguin in the world: it averages 53 cm in length and weighs between 1.5 and 2.5 kg.

What's threatening the Galapagueño penguins?

This is the rarest species of penguin in the world, with only around 1,200 individuals remaining on the archipelago in 2021, the only place in the world where these penguins live. With this number on a downward trend, the species is considered in danger of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

For all the reasons mentioned above, global warming is the main threat to the species.

In the water, sharks and sea lions are their main natural predators. In addition, fishermen, either through competition for fish stocks or directly through the accidental capture of individuals, represent a danger to the island penguin population.

On land, Galapagos snakes, hawks and also the “Sally lightfoot” crab attack eggs and juveniles. In addition, the introduction of cats, dogs and rats, which attack the penguins, eat their eggs and destroy their nests, is a major problem.

If you’d like to discover endemic Galapagos species such as penguins, contact us for more information.