It was a sight that seems to be on the way to going viral, a welcome respite to the usual spate of bad and/or polarizing news. With more than 1 million penguins flocking to Argentina’s Punta Tombo peninsula earlier this week, it was more than just breeding season taking them there, but rather copious amounts of small fish for them to dine on.
According to a report from Fox News, the 1 million-plus Magellanic penguins represent a record number in recent history for the species. For those who were there as the penguins gathered at the Argentine peninsula, this was an extraordinary sight, one that occurs every year but with an unusual number of birds gathered at the reserve.
A spectacular sight as over a million penguins gather for supper at Argentina's Punta Tombo peninsula pic.twitter.com/0zulL670fq
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) February 18, 2017
One million penguins gather in Argentina https://t.co/heH6AMrTl3
— LiliTaylor (@lilitaylor) February 18, 2017
In recent days, Punta Tombo’s waters have been teeming with anchovies, sardines, other small fish, and smaller crustaceans, which officials believe are perfect for penguins to dine on. The small islets near the shoreline have also been described as ideal nesting grounds for the birds, which take to southern Argentina and Chile en masse to breed, beginning around September or October each year.
According to The Independent, Magellanic penguins measure about 20 inches (50 centimeters) tall, and are distinguishable by their crescent of white feathers, which is broad enough to extend from right above their eyes to the chin. While the penguins are commonly found in Argentina and Chile during breeding season, they can head as far north as southwestern Brazil between March and September.
As evidenced by the 1 million penguins that gathered this week in Argentina, Magellanic penguins are not an endangered species. MarineBio.org, however, noted that populations of the birds were once gutted in the Falkland Islands as a result of commercial fishing activities. Oil pollution is another threat to the penguins, killing about 40,000 of these birds per year in Argentina, and combined with the problem of commercial fishing, Magellanic penguins are on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, filed under the “near-threatened” category.
— Colleen Currie (@CC2003) February 18, 2017
This isn’t the first time penguins have been in the news this week. The Inquisitr reported on Wednesday that the Monterey Bay Aquarium is now live streaming its African penguins, allowing users to view their activities on a real-time basis as the birds frolic in their habitat. The aquarium is also streaming live feeding sessions twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, with these sessions advertised as “educational events.”
This week’s mass penguin sightings in Argentina are, in a good way, a sharp contrast to the last time that the non-flying birds went viral. In November 2016, footage from National Geographic showing two rival male Magellanic penguins fighting each other over a female of the species had gotten the attention of netizens, with many taking to social media to describe how upset they felt after watching the video. One common observation was how the fighting penguins were reminiscent of how divisive humanity has become.
Science Alert also offered a blow-by-blow account of the “penguin love triangle” clip, which started with one of the males returning to find his mate with another partner, and ended in both male penguins getting bloodied. In a particularly poignant moment, the narrator quipped that “there’s no room for losers” as the losing penguin walked away, bruised and beaten, yet still tripping over a branch as his “cheating ex-partner” watched, adding the proverbial insult to injury.
Unlike that viral National Geographic video, things appear far more positive for the Magellanic penguins in Argentina, as their record numbers astound officials, conservationists, and tourists alike.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]