January and April are special months for some of our favorite birds here at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Earlier this year, we celebrated our Magellanic penguins on January 20 for Penguin Awareness Day. Now, we’ll be celebrating them again on April 25 for World Penguin Day!
There are 18 different species of penguins, with most of them congregating in Antarctica. The Magellanic penguins are one of four of the coastal species of penguin, meaning you’ll most likely find these birds in a temperate climate like South America. These penguins got their name from the explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, who spotted them off the tip of South America in 1520.
At Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, you can find these birds in Play Park at Tuxedo Coast. With their black backs and white bellies, it’s hard not to imagine these birds dressed in tuxedos. This unique coloring actually helps them adapt to the wild. This color camouflage is known as counter shading. The black on their backs helps them blend in with the darkness of the ocean so it makes it harder for predators to view them from above, and their white bellies blend in with the bright surface to make it hard for their prey to find them as they swim above.
A group of penguins is called a “waddle” on land and a “raft” in the water. We currently have 26 penguins, with our oldest penguin being 18 years old and our youngest being 1 year and 7 months old. Magellanic penguins can live up to 20 years old in the wild, while in captivity there have been records of penguins living up to 35 years of age.
You might see Magellanic penguins consume small fish in the wild like anchovies and sardines. Here at our Zoo, we give our birds a varied fish diet consisting of capelin, herring, horse mackerel, sardines, and silversides. Some penguins have their favorites, while others enjoy the variety. Our Magellanic penguins are fed three times a day, and guests are welcome to watch our 11 am or 3 pm feedings daily.
Sometimes you will notice that our Magellanic penguins can be very noisy and like the attention from our guests, since they are such social birds. They often interact with guests, so we hope to see you during the month of April to celebrate these wonderful birds!