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.
Most nests are seen between May and January. The nests are made within 50 metres (160 ft) of the water on the shore. They usually breed when the sea surface temperature is below 24 degrees Celsius (75 °F) which results in more food for them. Adults stay near the breeding area during the year with their mate that they have chosen for life. When the penguins are breeding, incubation takes 38–40 days with both parents helping out. After thirty days of the chicks being born and both parents sharing responsibility of taking care of them, the chicks have feathers that are brown above and white below. The purpose of this is to protect the chicks from the strong sun more so than keeping them warm. The Galápagos Penguin mates for life. It lays one or two eggs in places such as caves and crevices, protected from direct sunlight, which can lead to the eggs overheating. One parent will always stay with the eggs or chicks while the other is absent for several days to feed. The parents usually only rear up one child. If there is not enough food available, the nest may be abandoned.
They only go search for food during the day and normally within a few kilometers of their breeding site. They depend on the cold nutrient-rich currents to bring them food.
Because of the Galapagos Penguin’s smaller size, it has many predators. On land, the penguins must keep an eye out for crabs, snakes, owls, and hawks, while in the water they must avoid sharks, fur seals, and sea lions. They face many hazards due to humans, as well as the hazards of unreliable food resources and volcanic activity. Illegal fishermen interrupt the penguins’ nesting trees, and they are often caught in fishing nets by mistake. Much balance has to take place to ensure that the Galápagos Penguins do not become extinct.