Penguin (Humboldt)

Penguin at ZSL London Zoo

What they look like

Humboldts are medium-sized penguins. They have black heads with a white stripe on either side and pink skin around their eyes and base of the bill.

Animal facts

  • These penguins need to lose heat, rather than conserve it. Bare patches beside their bills and large wings help do this.
  • Humboldt penguins preen themselves and other members of the colony; they gather oil from a gland in their tail and apply it to their feathers like a gel. 
  • Humboldt penguins never chew with their mouth open because they don’t chew at all! Instead our penguins swallow their fish head first.
  • A Humboldt penguin can reach up to 30 miles per hour in the water!

What they eat

Small fish and crustaceans


At sea, but nests on rocky coasts, burrowing holes in guano and also using scrape nests or caves.

Where they live

Coastal Peru and Chile.


Numbers in the wild are declining. They are at risk from disturbance of colonies by Guano harvesting. Guano (penguin droppings) is a valuable fertiliser and is harvested periodically from many colonies.  They are also threatened by pollution from oil spills, overfishing, and habitat loss. Humboldt penguins are hunted by seals, sealions and sharks.

Visit our Humboldt penguins at ZSL London Zoo