The species burrows to nest, laying up to three eggs that are tended equally. Because of the temperate climate where the Humboldt breeds, the species does not have as distinct a breeding season as Antarctic penguins. The male and female alternate time on the nest, and chicks are born after about forty days.
Depending on the current for food, the Humboldt spends less time in off-shore waters than other species, attracted to deeper waters to feed. It is only visitors on Peru tours to the southern coast who will have a chance to glimpse Humboldts, and then most likely if they plan their travel to Peru during June and July. Here within the 692,000-acre Paracas National Reserve, 187 miles south of Lima, the Humboldts come to breed on the Islas Ballestas off the peninsula’s shore. Located a few miles south of the town of Pisco, the Reserve is one of the world’s most important seabird sanctuaries because of the multitude of species it attracts. Visitors on Peru tours may tour the Paracas National Reserve by boat.
Humboldts live on cliffs as far north as Punta Aguja in the Bay of Sechura south of Piura, Peru and as far south as the Punihuil Islets off Chiloe Island in Chile Patagonia. The species is attracted to Chile’s coast north of the capital around Valpariso and Vina del Mar because the current comes closer to shore in this region. These areas are a popular destination for visitors on Chile tours who come here for the resort villages. Between Valpariso and Zapallar, observation points are located on land or may be accessed by boat. A colony of about 1,500 breeding pairs may be seen during travel to Chile at the off-shore Isla Cachagua National Monument about thirty miles north of Vina del Mar. A colony also makes its home near the coastal national park of Pan de Azucar about 230 miles south of Antofagasta.
The Humboldt is far rarer than the Magellanic. A total of just 12,000 breeding pairs is known to exist, most found in Chile. Disturbances to the Humboldt Current such as those caused by El Nino, have a major impact on the species. The status of the Humboldt is “Vulnerable” due to commercial activities that reduce food supplies and disturb breeding sites. Commercial trade in the species has been banned.