There's a baby boom going on. In 2020, the Galápagos National Park counted close to 2,000 penguins in and around the islands—that's a record number! Watch & see.
Get to know the world's only tropical penguins
Species: S. mendiculus
Range: Endemic to the Galápagos Islands, with the largest numbers found on Isabela and Fernandina Island
Population: Approximately 2,000
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
Key Traits: Narrow C-shaped band of white feathers that runs from the eye to the chin on either side of the head; upside down, horseshoe-shaped band of black feathers around their belly; can reach 19-20 inches tall and 5.5-9.9 pounds.
Discover fascinating facts about the most northerly penguin species.
Imagine snorkeling alongside sea turtles and bright tropical fish when all of a sudden, a penguin zips past? That’s right: there’s a penguin that lives in Galápagos and it’s the northernmost penguin in the world. These tropical penguins are endemic to the legendary islands where it is thought they arrived from the south via an Antarctic current. Over time, these once cold-weather birds multiplied and adapted to their new warmer surroundings. They lost some of the fat they no longer needed and evolved to a smaller size. Today, these adorable island dwellers stand knee-high at about 19 to 20 inches tall.
Unlike polar penguins who worry about their eggs freezing, Galápagos penguins have to protect theirs from overheating in the equatorial sun. Thanks to their diminutive stature, these birds can nest inside shaded caves, cracks, and crevices in the lava rocks. They also have ways of keeping themselves cool. Galápagos penguins release heat through their webbed feet, hairless spots on their cheeks, and by holding their little flippers away from their body—a comical pose you’ll want to capture on camera. They even shade their feet with their bellies to protect them from sunburn.
More Galápagos Penguin Facts & Photos
These lovebirds breed once or twice a year and care equally for their eggs for 40 days. To show affection, couples preen each other and tap bills.
This is what it feels—and sounds—like when someone spots their favorite animal in the wild. Pure, unadulterated joy!
Galápagos penguins are the only penguins that molt more than once a year. During the approximately two-week-long molt, birds fast and stay up on dry land.