Galapagos Penguins on Stamps

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The Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a penguin endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild; it can survive due to the cool temperatures resulting from the Humboldt Current and cool waters from great depths brought up by the Cromwell Current. The Galapagos Penguin is one of the banded penguins, the other species of which occur mostly on the coasts of mainland South America, and Africa.

The average Galapagos Penguin is 49 centimetres  long and 2.5 kilograms in weight. They have a black head with a white border running from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, to join on the throat. They have blackish-grey upperparts and whitish underparts, with two black bands across the breast, the lower band extending down the flanks to the thigh. Juveniles differ in having a wholly dark head, greyer on side and chin, and no breast-band. The female penguins are smaller than the males, but are otherwise quite similar. The Galapagos Penguin is the third smallest species of penguin.

The Galapagos Penguin occurs primarily on Fernandina Island and the west coast of Isabela Island, but small populations are scattered on other islands in the Galapagos archipelago. While ninety percent of the Galapagos Penguins live among the western islands of Fernandina and Isabela, they also occur on Santiago, Bartolome, northern Santa Cruz, and Floreana. The northern tip of Isabela crosses the equator, meaning that Galápagos Penguins occasionally visit the northern hemisphere, the only penguins to do so.

The species is endangered, with an estimated population size of around 1,500 individuals in 2004, according to a survey by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The population underwent an alarming decline of over 70% in the 1980s, but is slowly recovering. It is therefore the rarest penguin species (a status which is often mistakenly attributed to the Yellow-eyed Penguin). Population levels are influenced by the effects of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which reduces the availability of shoaling fish, leading to low reproduction or starvation. However, anthropogenic factors (e.g. oil pollution, fishing by-catch and competition) may be adding to the ongoing demise of this species. On Isabela Island, introduced cats, dogs and rats attack penguins and destroy their nests. When in the water, they are preyed upon by sharks, fur seals, and sea lions.

(Source of text: Wikipedia)

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