Report to the Galápagos National Park on Conservation of Galápagos Penguins, Spheniscus mendiculus and Field Work for August 2 to August 12, 2013.
Investigation permit PNG # PC-11-13: Una Herramienta para el Aumento de la Poblacion de Pinguinos de Galápagos
Spheniscus mendiculus. This is a continuation of the Project started permit PNG # PC 47-10 and from the 1 of
February 2013 continues under PNG # PC 11-13.
Principal Investigator: Dr. P. Dee Boersma
Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-1800, USA
Collaborator: Parque Nacional Galápagos, Godfrey Merlen, Puerto Ayora
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Our most significant finding is that Galápagos penguins used constructed nests. This
means that all species of temperate penguins (African, Magellanic, Humbolt and Galápagos) use constructed nests.
Yellow-eyed penguins and Blue penguins also use constructed nests. During our trip from August 2 to 12, 2013,
we found 5 of our constructed nests had eggs and chicks and two of these nests were built in February 2013.
We captured 47 penguins and web tagged 19 penguins. We determined penguin body condition (they were in good condition),
breeding (most were in the migratory phase), and reproduction. We found active nests at Pta Espinosa, Elizabeth
Bay and Bartolomé. We found 13 active nests with 9 chicks and 13 eggs. Of the 13 nests 5 were constructed nests.
Our results demonstrate that Galápagos penguins use constructed nests and can colonize them quickly. Nest design
appears to be an important factor in whether nests are used. All of the constructed nests used were built like
lava tubes with a small opening and nesting chamber that could hold two penguins. With the decline in quality
nesting sites in the Marielas Islets, having constructed nests should mitigate the loss of suitable breeding
sites and should slow the decline in active nests in this important breeding area. Providing quality nesting
sites to augment breeding is a conservation tool that works and should be used. Constructing breeding islands
with constructed artificial nests in prime areas where food is available and introduced predators are absent
like Elizabeth Bay to help the population should be considered. Providing quality nesting sites as we show
is a promising way to help the population. Our recommendation in previous reports to create Marine Protected
Areas should be implemented.
- 42% of active nests at Pta. Espinosa, and Elizabeth Bay were built nests.
- 67% of the active nests were constructed nests on the large Marielas Islet.
- 50% of the active nests on the small Marielas Islet were constructed nests.
- 2 of the 5 constructed nests in use were built in the Islas Marielas in February 2013.
Most penguins in August 2013 were not breeding and were in their migration phase making it remarkable that so
many constructed nests were used. Penguins breeding had eggs or chicks less than 30 days of age. All juveniles
were above 1.7 kg showing they were in good body condition and none were molting although some will within the
next couple of months if good feeding conditions continue. Recent penguin fledglings were seen near the islands
throughout the day from August 6 to 9 suggesting they stay close to the nest where they hatched. Egg laying is
also likely to continue. We saw one copulation and no molting penguins.
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Water temperatures warmed after our trip in February 2013, and continued to be very warm in March and April so
likely the older juveniles we saw in August 2013 fledged before March and the recent fledglings came from eggs
laid in May or June with the chicks' fledging in July and August. Surface water temperatures where we went in
August 2013 varied from just over 16 degrees C to just over 20 degrees C. Cooler water was representative of
upwelling conditions. We captured juveniles in two age groups. Ones that likely fledged from December 2012 to
March 2013, still mostly feathered around the face, not ready to molt, and with mostly black feet. Recent fledglings
from July and August were feathered around the face and distinguished by their white cheeks and feet.
We did four evening counts of the number of penguins around the Mariela Islets. The number of penguins varied from
43 to 110 showing that counts likely tell little about the numbers of penguins or population trends. Counts may
not reflect age structure as the % of juveniles varied from 29% to 43% with a mean of 39%. Of the penguins we
captured in August 2013 in Elizabeth Bay, 47% were juveniles (n=14). The number of juveniles in the population is promising.
Feeding aggregations were common in Elizabeth Bay confirming our previous recommendations of the importance of
creating Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) at Elizabeth Bay and Bartolomé to Sombrero Chino. Little is known of the
foraging ecology of seabird assemblages in Galápagos. How these groups alter and enhance foraging dynamics and influence
penguin foraging needs to be better understood. Our observations show penguins forage close to shore and in foraging
assemblages feeding with a variety of other seabirds. During the length of this study Silversides, and perhaps open
water crustaceans, are an important part of the penguin's diet. We wish to continue our project of checking constructed
nest sites for 5 years and expand it to study the foraging ecology of penguins and other seabirds that feed in feeding