Behind the Lens: Capturing the Magic of Magellanic Penguins in the Falklands

With a white band across their head and a belly to match, the monochrome Magellanic penguin is one of the unexpected characters of the Falklands.

As one of 18 penguin species, this spectacular looking sea bird spends its summers on the coastlines of the Falkland Islands, intriguing visitors who often don’t imagine seeing plodding penguins set against crashing waves, pale sandy beaches and green hills.

Silversea Expedition Filmmaker Benn Berkeley is one of those visitors. Beguiled by feathers and beaks that travelers usually associate with ice at the Sub-Antarctic, he found himself in his creative flow as a filmmaker while in the presence of this captivating animal.

/Benn Berkeley

Unusual wildlife, idyllic location

“There are so many different species of penguins that Magellanic penguins weren’t even on my radar, but the Falkland Islands really are unique with some of their wildlife,” says Benn. “It reminds you of the moors in the U.K. where you see wind beaten moorland and then you get these other parts with penguin colonies, albatross and a huge abundance of wildlife.”

Saunders Island, which is north-west of the archipelago and home to those striking sweeping vistas, was where Benn filmed these birds that can live up to 10-20 years. His epic trip was part of an 18-day Silversea cruise in February.

“On Saunders Island there’s varied terrain where these penguins burrow for their shelter as opposed to other penguins. It was just nice to be able to shoot and see them in a totally different environment with grass, white sand beaches and in their burrows.”

/Benn Berkeley

Intricate details with a zoom lens

Using his RED digital camera with a 100-400mm lens, Benn was able to get close enough for those all-encompassing fine details of these birds from a safe distance while they relaxed in the safety of their hillside burrows, which can be up to two meters deep.

“They sleep in burrows, as opposed to Gentoo penguins which won’t really have any shelter. They just huddle together and it’s the same with a lot of penguins,” he says. “But Magellanic penguins have big burrows in the hillside that they dig out. To help get closer, I zoomed in at 400mm.”

/Benn Berkeley