The ancestors of the Galápagos penguins must have been intrepid explorers, as they originally followed the Humboldt Current from Antarctica to the Galápagos. The Galápagos penguin seeks heat rather than cold, black lava rock rather than frozen tundra, and the north rather than the south. Although they only reach a bit above the equator, they are the northernmost penguins to be found.
Of course, the Galápagos penguins do still prefer the islands to be on their colder side. The penguins depend on the colder temperatures brought in by the Humboldt Current and the cold, nutrient-rich water brought up from deep waters by the Cromwell Current. In recent history, El Niño and its environmental repercussions resulted in a shockingly high mortality rate of around 77%. Though the populations are beginning to increase, they continue to be the most endangered and rare penguin species on the planet.
Galápagos penguins they nest in the fissures and caves of volcanic rock. To help penguin repopulation amidst nest devastation, scientists have construct over 120 “condos” for penguins as artificial nest sites.
It’s a good thing the Galápagos penguins have solid homes as they mate for life and do not follow a strict breeding season; instead they are known as opportunistic breeders and can produce around 3 clutches a year.
Where to find Galápagos penguins:
Even amongst the Galápagos Islands, their small populations are largely concentrated on Isabela and Fernandina Islands—with some sightings on Bartolomé, Floreana, and Santiago.
To cool off in the balmy Galápagos heat, the Galápagos penguins hold their flippers out as they move around the shoreline. Their purpose for this flipper stretch is two-fold: one, it helps them cool down their bodies; two, holding their flippers over their feet creates a shady patch that protects their feet from getting a sunburn.
You can best see these amazing birds on our signature Galapagos kayak tour.