Argentina is rich in biodiversity and surrounded by different habitats that introduce various living organisms. With so many habitats, what about penguins? Their behavior and appearance make them among the most loved birds worldwide! Let’s take a little trip and see if there are penguins in Argentina.
Argentina has Magellanic, Gentoo, Southern Rockhopper, and Macaroni penguins. They have unique characteristics, inhabit various landscapes, and tourists can see them in nature reserves. Gentoo penguins are the largest penguin species in Argentina, while the Southern Rockhoppers are the smallest.
Related: Bears In Argentina
Are Penguins Native To Argentina?
There are four types of penguins in Argentina, namely, the Magellanic, Gentoo, Southern Rockhopper, and Macaroni penguins.
Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) have black and white bellies. Their name originates from Ferdinand Magellan, a famous Portuguese explorer who first saw them in 1520. Their chest has two black stripes that mimic the appearance of a necklace.
The line closer to their heads have an upside-down “U” shape. Their heads are black with white rings around their eyes, ears, and chin that meet their necks.
Magellanic penguins are more aggressive than other penguin species, especially during mating season. It’s common to see fights between males for nests and even between females for males.
These penguins favor various habitats, like sandy dunes, cliff faces, grassy slopes, beaches, and forested areas. After the breeding season, they enjoy venturing to ocean waters, where they swim approximately 155 mi (250 km) offshore.
Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are one of the most distinctive and charismatic species of penguins. They have red-orange beaks, white-feather caps, and peach-colored feet.
Interestingly, these impressive swimmers hold the record for the fastest underwater swimmers worldwide, at 22 mph (36 kph).
They place an extraordinary emphasis on socializing, family, and nurturing long-lasting bonds with their mates. Both parents share the responsibility of nest building, incubating the eggs, and feeding the chicks.
Gentoo penguins typically inhabit rocky habitats like coastal plains, sheltered valleys, and cliffs surrounded by ice and snow most of the year.
However, they prefer ice-free areas for nesting and breeding because they need to build their nests on the ground and have easy access to the water. Ice-free areas are also warmer and have more vegetation than frozen areas.
Southern Rockhopper Penguins
Southern Rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) are smaller than other penguin species. They have orange beaks, orange beaks, pink webbed feet, red eyes, and yellow-black spiky feathers on their heads.
They are some of the most sociable penguins, meaning you’ll never see them alone. These penguins are the most aggressive of all penguins species. As such, they have a strong will to survive and boast the largest numbers among penguins.
Penguins are very sociable animals. It is scarce to see one alone. Southern rockhopper penguins are the most aggressive of all penguin species and the most numerous.
They inhabit rocky environments and burrows and build their nests in tall grass called tussocks. Since they live in harsh, rocky landscapes, they can’t slide on their bellies like other penguins. They adapted by learning to hop between rocks, earning them the name rockhopper penguins.
Macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) are crested penguins with elongated yellow feathers atop their heads that resemble macaroni noodles. The feathers start between their eyes and form a V-shape as it moves back toward their necks.
They look very similar to Royal penguins, but Royal penguins have white faces, and Macaroni penguins have black. They share their love for socializing with other penguin species, choosing a mate for life, and sharing the responsibility of raising chicks.
Macaroni penguins enjoy a cold and rocky habitat, living primarily in the Antarctic and subantarctic regions. They build their nests on cliffs and islands far from hungry predators.
How Big Are Penguins In Argentina?
The biggest penguins in Argentina are the Gentoo penguins, growing as tall as 28 – 36 in (70 – 90 cm). They are the third-largest penguin species, behind the Emperor and King penguins.
Males can weigh up to 19 lb (8.5 kg) before molting and 11 lb (4.9 kg) after. Females weigh 18 lb (8.2 kg) before molting and 9.9 lb (4.5 kg) when they guard their nests.
The smallest penguins in Argentina are the Southern Rockhopper penguins, growing 20 in (50 cm) tall and weighing only 5.5 lb (2.5 kg).
Magellanic penguins are not far behind Gentoo penguins; they reach 24 – 30 in (61 – 76 cm) tall and weigh 6 – 14 lb (2.7 – 6.5 kg). Macaroni penguins are 28 in (70 cm) tall and average 12 lb (5.5 kg).
Where Are Penguins In Argentina?
There are numerous places across Argentina where you can glimpse penguin species in their natural habitat. Let’s cover all the best ones!
This peninsula sits in the Chubut province and is home to multiple Magellanic penguins colonies. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the penguins live along the coast of Punta Norte, Punta Delgada, and Caleta Valdes.
Ushuaia is a resort town on the island of Tierra del Fuego and sits at the world’s southernmost point. It’s popular among adventure seekers and is also a gateway to Antarctica.
It’s possible to travel there on a catamaran or cruise. Nearby islands like Isla Martillo host plenty of Gentoo and some Magellanic penguin colonies.
Puerto Deseado is a coastal town situated in the province of Santa Cruz. The surrounding islands contain a wealth of wildlife and are the primary destination for finding Southern Rockhopper penguins. Isla Pingüino is especially abundant with penguin life.
Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands)
Islas Malvinas consists of numerous islands on the east side of Tierra del Fuego. Argentina and the UK both have rights to the biodiversity that flourishes on them.
It’s possible to see an astonishing 150,000 pairs of Macaroni penguins occupy a couple of these islands.
Can Tourists See Penguins In Argentina?
There are dozens of exciting nature reserves in Argentina that allow for the opportunity to see penguins in their natural habitat. Here are some of the best nature reserves to visit:
Punta Tombo Nature Reserve
This fantastic nature reserve has the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, with more than one million on its shores! There are designated walking trails that allow travelers to view them in their natural habitat and from a safe distance.
One of the best times to go penguin-watching here is from September to April, when parent penguins care for their chicks.
Punda Tombo is a nature reserve in Puerto Madryn, Chubut province. It has one of Argentina’s most extensive collections of penguin colonies, with more than half a million penguins!
Isla de los Estados
Isla de los Estados is a nature reserve off the eastern end of Tierra del Fuego. It’s also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and contains multitudes of Macaroni penguins, colonies, and other wildlife.
Bahia Bustamante is a seaside village in Santa Cruz province. Locals call it “Patagonian Galápagos” because it overflows with beautiful landscapes and a wealth of biodiversity. It’s possible to see around 100 000 Magellanic penguins scuttle about and build nests. Each island is accessible by boat.