Magellanic Penguin Colony at Punto Tombo, Argentina

May 02, 2011

Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren; Jim Foster

May 2011 Earth Science Picture of the Day Viewer's Choice

At first glance, it looks like these penguins have taken over a prairie dog colony. Actually, this cratered hillside in Punto Tombo, Argentina has been gouged by Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). The burrow-digging Magellanic penguins thrive in the cool, temperate waters along the southern coasts of South America, the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands and the Juan Fernandez Islands. The huge colony here at Punto Tombo is the largest in South America, hosting up to a half million penguins between September and April.

Nesting burrows are dug in gravel, clay and sand by adult pairs of Magellanics. After the eggs are hatched, the burrows are then used as shady shelter for the fast-growing, fluffy, gray chicks. In a few months, they're about the same size as their more conspicuously colored parents, ultimately weighing about nine pounds (4.1 kg) and standing 27 in (68 cm) tall. Note the gull at left center. The penguins seem unconcerned by its proximity, perhaps since all of the eggs have hatched by now and gulls are no longer a threat to the chicks. Photo taken on January 9, 2011.

Photo details: Camera Maker: NIKON CORPORATION; Camera Model: NIKON D60; Focal Length: 116.0mm; Aperture: f/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0040 s (1/250); ISO equiv: 100; Exposure Bias: none; Metering Mode: Matrix; Flash Fired: No (enforced); Orientation: Normal; Color Space: sRGB.