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punta tombo, argentina, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn (5)

Millions of happy feet

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This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Punta Tombo, Patagonia

Why is it so hot? I thought penguins were supposed to live in the cold, on snow, surrounded by icebergs. Instead they’re standing in the dunes, far from the water, in direct sunlight on a 40 degree day. They’re panting in the heat. So am I. This is not what I expected from a penguin colony.

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn (2)

It’s not even like just a couple of them got confused and thought the Argentinian summer would be a nice break from the freezing temperatures of Antarctica. There are more than one million penguins here at Punta Tombo, making it the largest colony in South America.

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn

Obviously it’s not the penguins who are confused, but me. I guess I was expecting ‘Happy Feet’ but instead got ‘Floppy Heat’. This is the natural habitat of the Magellanic Penguins, which spend their time on the coastlines of Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Here at Punta Tombo they make their nests from September to April and the next generation is born.

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn (1)

They’re monogamous animals and breed with the same partner each year. In September the males come to shore and prepare the nest. The females then join them and lay two eggs. Both the mother and the father will guard and incubate the eggs and when the chicks are born both parents will continue to care for the young.

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn

Argentina’s penguins at Punta Tombo

They share the duties but, in recent times, this arrangement has been threatening their very existence. While one of the penguins swims out to sea to feed itself, the other takes on the domestic duties in the nest. The animal feeding in the ocean might be gone for quite a few days while it finds food and, in the meantime, its partner waits and starves. Over the past few years, though, climate change has meant the food source has moved further away and the penguins have had to swim an extra 40 kilometres or so to feed. The extra time away from the nest has meant the partner waiting sometimes dies from starvation.

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn (3)

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn (6)

The Magellanic Penguins are now listed as a ‘threatened species’. The population numbers are declining for several reasons – climate change being one of them.

During a visit to Punta Tombo, looking around, it’s hard to imagine they are under threat. There are literally hundreds of thousands of penguins as you walk through the colony. They stand at the entrance to their nests, panting in the heat and watching you with a wary eye; they gather in groups around puddles of water on the pathway; they waddle from bush to bush looking confused and lost; and they lie in the shade of shrubs as their feathers malt off ahead of the new season.

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn (4)

punta tombo, argentina, patagonia, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn

The penguins seem comfortable with the humans who walk around them and weave between their nests. They also seem comfortable with the warmth of their surroundings. How unfortunate that the humans are creating a warmth on this planet that is killing many of these animals in a most uncomfortable way.

* For more information you can check out Punta Tombo’s website.

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22 Comments
  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica | Mar 17, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Glad you made it here! One of my favorite memories from my travels :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Santiago – The City from AboveMy Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:31 am

      Yeah, I just loved walking around them. It’s so cool they way they just stand there and look at you.

  • The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) | Mar 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Aww they’re so cute! It’s weird to see penguins not on snow! Great post.
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..The Weekly Worldview: Connecticut’s Wadsworth FallsMy Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:31 am

      It’s super weird to see them in such a hot climate.

  • Sophie | Mar 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Love this post! And love penguins! :)
    Sophie recently posted..Pets, pools and pennies at the Hemingway House, Key WestMy Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:31 am

      How cute are they?! :)

  • Angela | Mar 18, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Penguins are possibly the cutest animals ever, lovely shots!
    Angela recently posted..Surrendering to pleasure in RomeMy Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:32 am

      It makes me really want to go and see the larger ones in Antarctica now! Oh well… maybe one year…

  • Yvonne | Mar 18, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Oh I love penguins. And like you I also saw them in the heat for the first time… in Simon’s Town in South Africa… :D
    Yvonne recently posted..ITB Berlin 2012 – The Rise of the Travel BloggerMy Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:33 am

      Oh, I hadn’t heard about the ones in South Africa. I’ll have to check it out sometime when I get there!

  • Sherry | Mar 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Oh, I’ve seen them in hot weather, too (at the zoo). They’re quite resilient in the wild though, I’ve always thought. But I’d also love to see them in person. I think they always act so well and cute with one another. What a great place to visit!
    Sherry recently posted..“Sightseeing Above Kauai”My Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:35 am

      It’s quite funny to watch them pant in the heat. They’re not uncomfortable – it’s just the way they manage the temperature of their bodies. But you don’t expect it from penguins.

  • Cam | Mar 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    They are so cute!
    Fun photos – makes me want to visit ;-)

    • Turtle | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:39 am

      The best time of year is from about November to March, so try to fit it in to a trip south sometime!

  • rdsean | Mar 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    i like the first pic.. that’s so cute… would love to see happy feet too.. hoping someday.. :D
    rdsean recently posted..The Hunger Games vs Battle RoyaleMy Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 29, 2012 at 3:24 am

      I know – the first pic looks like the penguin is just going for an afternoon stroll down the path. How cute!

  • Laura | Mar 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    So cute! Gorgeous pics! I want to see penguins too! Real ones, in their natural habitat!
    Laura recently posted..Hotel Infante Sagres, Porto. Luxury and RomanceMy Profile

    • Turtle | Mar 29, 2012 at 3:25 am

      This is a great way to see them in the wild. But it’s not the same as seeing them on the ice, I imagine.

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel | May 13, 2012 at 5:03 am

    So adorable! We love penguins.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHT- Dhole (Indian Wild Dog)My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | May 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      And these ones were so cute!!

  • Jared Romey | Jan 7, 2013 at 6:19 am

    I thought those penguins looked familiar, and then when I saw they were from Punta Tombo in Argentina I knew we’d previously met.

    Great photos!

    Jared
    Jared Romey recently posted..10 Examples of Spanish Slang Words and Phrases Used in CubaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Jan 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Ha! Those penguins are just following you around the world!! :)

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