African penguins are also known as jackass penguins, because they make a
sound that is very similar to a donkey's bray.
Size 23-25 inches tall; 5-9 pounds
Diet Small fishes, such as pilchard, anchovies, horse mackerel and sardines
Lifespan 10-15 years
Range Africa’s coastal waters and islands, from Namibia through South Africa
Habitat African penguins nest in burrows and lay two eggs, which are incubated
for 38 to 40 days by both males and females. They hunt in the nutrient-rich
cold-water currents just offshore.
Predators Sharks and fur seals hunt penguins in the water. Seagulls, mongoose
and cats prey on nesting penguins and their offspring.
Relatives There are 18 penguin species. African penguins are closely related
to the Humboldt, Galapagos and Magellanic penguins.
Family life African penguins breed in huge, noisy colonies. They lay two eggs in
burrows, bowl-shaped depressions dug in the sand, which protect the eggs from
the sun. Like all penguins, they form tight pair bonds, and both parents incubate
the eggs and feed the chicks for 2 to 4 months. The chicks are old enough to breed
in 2 to 4 years.
Conservation status Endangered African penguins are in danger of extinction. Major reasons include depletion of their food from overfishing, climate change and pollution from incidences such as oil spills. Most African penguins nest on islands, where they should be safe from predators, but cats, mongoose and other introduced predators are now present on many of these islands.
Penguins and climate change Temperate penguins are able to inhabit places where upwelling brings cold, nutrient-rich ocean water to the surface, which creates a bountiful food supply. These penguins periodically face extreme food shortages when El Niño events usher in warm water and prevent cold water from reaching the surface. Leading climate scientists believe that global climate change will lead to stronger El Niño events in the future. Read more ...
Explore the secret world of penguins with our new Penguinology program. Visit the Aquarium to see penguins up close, watch them eat and find out what’s behind their underwater super speed. Pick up an adventure guide and learn all the tricks penguins have up their feathers!