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Chiloe Penguins: A Unique Encounter with Nature

The southern coast of the Chiloe Island is the only place in the world so far where the Humboldt and the Magellanic penguins coexist and breed together and form mixed colonies. Chiloe penguins are thus not a distinct species, but rather a term used to refer to the mixed colony of those flightless birds that inhabit the 3 islands forming the Puñihuil Natural Monument

Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins: A Unique Coexistence

The Humboldt penguin is named after the Humboldt Current, a cold ocean current that flows along the western coast of South America and provides food and habitat for many marine animals. The Magellanic penguin is named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who first encountered them during his voyage around the world in the 16th century. 

With a bit of luck, you may observe mixed pairs attending chicks when visiting the islands during a boat trip. In birds, natural heterospecific pairing occurs rather frequently, and outcomes may include successful hybrid offspring. It is more widespread in areas where two closely related species overlap in distribution and one of them is less common.

Distinctive Features of Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins

The Humboldt and the Magellanic penguins are similar in size and appearance, but they have some distinctive features that allow us to tell them apart. The Humboldt penguin has a black head with a white border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat. It also has a black band across the chest and a pink patch of bare skin on the face. The Magellanic penguin has a black head with two white bands that run from above the eye, meeting at the throat. It also has a black horseshoe-shaped band on the lower chest and no pink patch on the face.

Chiloe pinguins Chile

Life of the Chiloe Penguins

The chiloe penguins feed mainly on small fish, such as anchovies, sardines and herring, as well as squid and crustaceans. They can dive up to 150 meters deep and stay underwater for several minutes. They are social animals that live in large colonies and communicate with each other through vocalizations and body language. They mate for life and breed once a year, usually between September and March. They build their nests in burrows, crevices or under bushes, and lay two eggs that they incubate for about 40 days.

The chiloe penguin colony is a valuable source of information for scientists, who study the genetics, ecology and behavior of these birds. It is also a precious resource for conservation, as both the Humboldt and the Magellanic penguins are threatened by human activities, such as overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and climate change. The Humboldt penguin is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, while the Magellanic penguin is classified as near threatened. The Puñihuil Natural Monument is a protected area that aims to preserve the biodiversity and the natural beauty of this place, as well as to promote the sustainable development of the local communities.

How to visit Chiloe Penguins?

The best way to visit the chiloe penguin colony is by taking a boat tour from the nearby village of Puñihuil. The boat tours operate from September to March, which is the breeding season of the penguins, and last for about 40 minutes. They allow you to get close to the islets and observe the penguins and other wildlife from a respectful distance. The boat tours are guided by local fishermen, who have a deep knowledge and respect for the nature and the culture of Chiloe. 

While boat excursions to the Islotes de Puñihuil are a well-liked activity, the daily trips are restricted to preserve the integrity of the ecosystem. Puñihuil offers various environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism alternatives, featuring cabins, dining establishments, handicraft shops, and guided nature walks.It is a magical and enchanting place, where nature and culture blend in harmony. The chiloe penguin colony is one of its most remarkable and charming attractions, where you can witness the coexistence and the diversity of these amazing animals. If you are looking for a unique and unforgettable encounter with nature, you should definitely visit the chiloe penguins and fall in love with them.

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