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A Magellanic penguin stands on the rocks of its Polar Play Zone habitat, other penguins visible in the background swimming on their stomachs in the water.

Magellanic Penguins

The boldly banded Magellanic penguins live along the coast of southern South America, fishing the rich waters in the Strait of Magellan. Both the birds and the water passage were named for the Portuguese explorer who, in 1520, was the first European to encounter them.

Magellanic penguins have short, squat legs and waddle awkwardly around on land, but their torpedo-shaped bodies and thin, crescent-shaped wings propel them easily through water!
A Magellanic penguin is viewed from above as it swims in the clear water of its habitat in Polar Play Zone. Its wings are outstretched as it steers its torpedo-shaped body through the water, and its back where it is lifted from the water is glossy with waterproof feathers.

Gesundheit!

Magellanic penguins are swift swimmers, literally flying underwater as fast as 15 mph. But instead of wings, they have powerful flippers with broad, flat, fused bones that also enable them to dive for their prey, mainly anchovies, sardines and cephalopods. Penguins get all their water from their food, but it's salty. They have a unique way of excreting this salt—they sneeze.

When a Magellanic penguin molts, a new layer of feathers grows in and the old feathers fall off in clumps. The penguins can often be seen itching away at loose patches of feathers during their molts.

Maintaining a feather dry suit

Penguin feathers are small and densely packed—about 70 on a square inch of body surface. To maintain this warm, waterproof covering, they carefully clean and rearrange the feathers and preen with oil from a gland under their tail. Every year penguins replace all their feathers at once, in what scientists call a "catastrophic molt." The birds look like a down pillow that exploded.Only after they have completely replumed, a process that takes a couple of weeks, can penguins swim and hunt again.

Other birds

A barred owl looks forward with green leaves in background.

Barred owl

Red tailed hawk Echo has wide wings, white underneath and dark on top for camouflage.

Red-tailed hawk

A wood duck, with a male's characteristic crest of long feathers along the back of its head, peers down at the camera from atop some rocks.

Wood duck

A brightly colored long beaked Aracari stands on a branch on a white background.

Green araçari

A Brazilian Teal Duck stands in grasses.

Brazilian teal

Great horned owl Logan has long groups of feathers just above his eyes that tuft out from the sides of his head like horns.

Great horned owl