Humboldt Penguins are named after the Humboldt current, a cold, nutrient-rich current of water that runs from along the west coast of South America from northern Peru to the southern tip of Chile. The word Penguin first appears in the 16th century as a synonym for the now extinct Great Auk. When European explorers discovered what are today known as Penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their similar appearance to the Great Auk of the Northern Hemisphere and named them after this bird, although they are not closely related. Humboldts are a medium-sized penguin with black heads, backs and tails and a characteristic black upside-down horseshoe-shaped band across their chest that extends down either side of their white belly to their black feet. Their head and face are also black with a white band that extends beneath the chin and over their eyes. They have a black bill with a pink flesh-colored patch that extends to the eyes. Females are slightly smaller that the males. Juvenile Humboldt Penguins have a dark gray head and back and a white belly. They are similar in size to Magellanic Penguins, having an average length of about 70 centimeters and an average weight of 4 kilograms. Their eyes are reddish-brown and their bills are slightly larger than those of Magellanics.
Humboldt Penguins are found on islands and along the rocky coasts of Peru and Chile. A few have been spotted as far north as Colombia. These penguins take advantage of the nutrient-rich waters of their namesake the Humboldt current, where they feed on small fish, krill and squid. They have been recorded diving to depths of 150 meters, however the average dive is no deeper than 60 meters. On land, wild dogs and foxes prey on adult Humboldts well as their eggs and chicks. At sea, adults are preyed on by Southern Fur Seals, sharks and Killer Whales. They primarily breed from March-April or September-October, depending on their location. Nests are made of burrows in the sand or small crevices in the rocks. Females lay 2 eggs between 2-4 days apart that are incubated by both parents for about 40 days. Unlike other penguin species where only 1 egg is successfully incubated, Humboldts typically incubate both eggs which hatch about 2 days apart. The chicks are fed by one parent until they grow a thick, downy plumage. They remain in the nest for about 12 weeks until they fledge and forage along the coast until they return to the breeding colony to build their own nest when they reach sexual maturity after about 2 years. Like other penguin species, Humboldt Penguins often return to the same breeding colony where they were born.