African Penguin

African Penguin

Jackass penguin, Black-footed penguin, Cape penguin

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Spheniscus demersus
Population size
41,700
Life Span
10-15 yrs
TOP SPEED
20 km/h
WEIGHT
2-5 kg
HEIGHT
60-68 cm
LENGTH
45 cm

The African penguin is a small to medium-sized penguin with black-and-white plumage, serving the animal as a perfect camouflage to protect from predators. Due to the black feathers on their back, they merge with the environment, remaining unseen to those looking down from above. Meanwhile, the white coloration on the front part of their body allows them to be unspotted by aquatic predators, looking up from below. The penguins have a horseshoe-shaped, white-colored stripe on their face, stretching from around their eyes to their chest as well on the chin, towards the bill. Young penguins possess gray-blue feathers, which darken as they grow up.

Di

Diurnal

Cr

Crepuscular

Ca

Carnivore

Pi

Piscivores

Se

Semiaquatic

Fl

Flightless bird

Al

Altricial

Bu

Burrowing

Na

Natatorial

Te

Territorial

Co

Congregatory

Ov

Oviparous

Pu

Pursuit predator

Mo

Monogamy

So

Social

Co

Colonial

No

Not a migrant

A

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Continents
Subcontinents
Biogeographical realms

African penguins are found along the coast of South Africa and Namibia. They do not migrate and live in colonies on 24 islands between Namibia and Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. African penguins spend most of their lives at sea and come ashore to breed and molt.

African Penguin habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

African penguins are both diurnal and crepuscular. By day, the birds hide in their burrows, escaping the sun. At twilight and dawn, they come out to forage. African penguins are highly social animals. Grooming is a common activity in these animals. They groom each other in order to clean the plumage, rearrange the feathers and take off parasites. In addition, grooming reinforces the social bond between a pair. During their courtship rituals, the birds are extremely noisy, emitting loud calls, which are quite similar to these of donkeys. In order to clean and cool themselves, they frequently take baths, making their bathing spots at a distance of just a few meters from the seashore.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

African penguins are carnivores (piscivores). Their diet consists mainly of pilchards, round herrings, anchovies, horse mackerel, and other shoaling pelagic fish. The birds will also consume squid and crustaceans.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
year-round, peak occures in February
INCUBATION PERIOD
40 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
3-5 months
FEMALE NAME
hen
MALE NAME
cock
BABY NAME
chick, nestling
BABY CARRYING
2 eggs

These birds are monogamous, mating once in a lifetime. They can use the same breeding sites for many years. African penguins breed all year round with the peak period, occurring in February. Usually, the female digs a burrow or simply uses a hollow under a rock or bush, where she lays 2 eggs, after which both the male and the female incubate the eggs for up to 40 days. During the first month after hatching out, the chicks are fed and cared by both parents. Then they join crèches or groups of other chicks, where they find protection from predators. The chicks stay with their parents, until the age of 3-5 months, after which they leave the colony and start living independently. Male penguins become reproductively mature at 5 years old while females start to breed when they are 4 years old.

Population

Population threats

Commercial fishing negatively affects the population of the species, reducing prey items and leading to food shortages. Meanwhile, the African penguins compete with Cape Fur Seals for breeding areas as well as prey items. On the other hand, the penguins are threatened by their natural predators. For example, they are prey species for seals, while their eggs and chicks are a source of food for other predators of the area. In addition, these birds currently suffer from oil pollution.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List in 2015, the overall number of African penguin pairs was about 20,850 pairs, or 41,700 mature individuals Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • African penguins use three main types of vocalizations: bray, yell, and haw. Meanwhile, they are sometimes called "jackass penguins" due to braying, and giving out donkey-like calls.
  • African penguins are able to hold their breath under the water for 2.5 minutes on average.
  • Above their eyes, the birds possess pink glands, which serve as thermoregulation. The blood flow in their glands speeds up with the increasing temperature and the glands enlarge, attaining dark pink color. Meanwhile, circulating through these glands, their blood cools down by the surrounding air.
  • These birds are excellent divers, able to dive as deep as 130 meters, though usually, they dive at about 30 meters on average.
  • African penguins make long foraging trips of up to 110 km (68 miles) at one time.
  • Once a year, returning to their colonies, these birds undergo molt, which lasts about 20 days. During this period, they lose nearly half of their body weight, remaining on land and fasting.

References

1. African Penguin Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_penguin
2. African Penguin on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22697810/0
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/646453

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