Abundant fish draw 1 million penguins to Argentine peninsula

Penguins walk on a beach at Punta Tombo peninsula in Argentina's Patagonia, on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Drawn by an unusually abundant haul of sardines and anchovies, over a million penguins visited the peninsula during this years' breeding season, a recent record number according to local officials. Punta Tombo represents the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world. (AP Photo/Maxi Jonas)(Associated Press, February 18, 2017)

PUNTA TOMBO, Argentina (AP) — More than a million penguins have traveled to Argentina’s Punta Tombo peninsula during this year’s breeding season, drawn by an unusual abundance of small fish.

Local officials say that’s a record number in recent years for the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, offering an especially stunning spectacle for the tens of thousands of people who visit the reserve annually.

The peninsula’s tiny islets are well-suited to nesting and have sardines and anchovies close to the shoreline. The flightless birds come on shore in September and October and stay while the males and females take turns caring for their eggs and hunting for food.

The warm-weather birds breed in large colonies in southern Argentina and Chile and migrate north as far as southwestern Brazil between March and September.

They are around 20 inches (50 centimeters) tall and have a broad crescent of white feathers that extends from just above each eye to the chin and a small area of pink on the face.