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Animal Behavior

The Migration to Nowhere
In a few months all eyes will be on the San Francisco Zoo's Magellanic penguins: Will they repeat last winter's bizarre Christmas-to-Valentine's Day performance? Back then six penguins arrived from Ohio's Six Flags and within two hours abruptly led the zoo's 46 usually languid penguins on a seven-week swim around their pool.

Why the flurry of activity? In their native South America, Magellanics migrate twice a year some 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) along the coast in search of food. They then haul out and lay eggs, which is what the zoo birds did after their big swim. "The move to California was timed to coincide with the penguins' normal migration, so their internal clocks were telling them: Swim!" says Magellanic expert Dee Boersma of the University of Washington. "Whatever one penguin does, the rest follow."

Perhaps this December the captive penguins will sit back and relax, having realized they've got nowhere to go.

—Jennifer Steinberg Holland

Web Links

San Francisco Zoo
This site offers photographs of the famous penguins and a summary of their swim last winter. It also gives general facts and characteristics of Magellanic penguins.

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Arnold, Caroline. Penguin. Morrow Junior Books, 1988.


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