Baby penguins dying as global weather changes

Heavy rainstorms and an increase in global temperature are threatening the Argentina’s magellanic penguins. The largest colony  has declined by 20 per cent since 1987, according to the study published in the journal PLOS One.

World’s largest colony


The colony of Magellanic penguins located at Punta Tombo, Argentina, is the largest in the world. Unlike their Antarctic cousins, these penguins live in a dry place, similar to a desert, with the ground made up on gravel, clay, and sand.

Every year about 200, 000 Magellanic penguins make their way to the peninsula in September and leave with their young in February. In addition to predators and starvation the penguin chicks must also compete with changing weather patterns.

Drowning on land


As global weather patterns change, the Punta Tombo peninsula has been receiving ever increasing amounts of rainfall. These storms have proven to be deadly for the penguin chicks. Older chicks who are too large to shelter under their parents, but too young to have their waterproof feathers are particularly at risk.

These chicks are exposed to the rainfall as the nests become swamped, and struggle to survive as their body temperature plummets. Over a period of 28 years, 8 per cent of Magellanic penguin chicks at Punta Tombo were killed by storms.

PLOS reports one storm killed 50% of a cohort of chicks.

Dying in the heat


The Magellanic penguins may not like the cold as much as some of their cousins in Antarctica but they are not fans of the heat either. The rising global temperatures are yet another hazard for these young penguins.

The chicks who do not have their waterproof feathers are unable to dive into the ocean so they can cool off. This is causing more penguins to die from heat exhaustion.

The change in global weather is not just affecting the Magellanic penguin chicks – it’s affecting the adults too. According to the study, in order to look after their young, parents are laying eggs later and swimming farther to get food for their chicks, both factors that lessen reproductive success.

What are Magellanic penguins?

Infographic on Magellanic penguins. Created by Kelly Fram.
Infographic on Magellanic penguins. Created by Kelly Fram.
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