Spheniscus magellanicus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Spheniscus magellanicus
Species Authority: (Forster, 1781)
Common Name(s):
English Magellanic Penguin

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Boersma, P., Frere, E., Komar, O., Nisbet, I. & Woods, R.W.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Calvert, R., Clay, R., Lascelles, B., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J.
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.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: 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.

Argentina; Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); Uruguay
Antarctica; Australia; New Zealand; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: 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.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: 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).

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): 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 [top]

Conservation Actions: 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.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Spheniscus magellanicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 29 March 2015.
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