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African Penguin
Similar Birds:
 Humboldt Penguin
 Magellanic Penguin
 Galapagos Penguin

African Penguin Video

African Penguin

African Penguin Range Map (South Africa)
African Penguin Range Map (South Africa)

African Penguin Swimming
All images are an African Penguin at South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Dalton-in-Furness, UK © theanimalfiles.com
Latin Name Spheniscus demersus
Conservation Status Vulnerable
Location South Africa
Colour Black & White
Height 68 - 70 cms (26.8 - 27.6 inches)
Weight 2 - 5 Kgs (4.4 - 11 lbs)
Life Expectancy 10 - 11 Yrs

Main Characteristics

African Penguins are between 68 and 70 cms (26.8 - 27.6 inches) in height and they weigh between 2 and 5 kgs (4.4 - 11 lbs). They are coloured black on their back and white on their front. They have a black stripe and a unique pattern of spots on their front, a large black beak and black feet. They have a loud, braying call that is similar to that of a donkey.

They have pink glands above each eye and as the penguin becomes hot these glands become more pink. This is due to to more blood flowing through them so that it can be cooled by the surrounding air.

They tend to moult in November and December and during this time they remain on land. After they have gained their new plumage they head out to sea to feed, returning in January to mate and begin nesting.

African penguins have an average swimming speed of 7 km/hr (4 mph) but they can reach speeds of 20 km/hr (12 mph) when they are hunting. They dive to an average depth of 30 m (98 ft) but they can dive deeper and they can stay submerged for up to 2.5 minutes.


African Penguins are found around the coast of south Africa. They spend their time at sea hunting for food or they form colonies on the rocky shores when they are breeding.


African Penguins mainly feed on fish such as anchovies, pilchards, horse mackerel and round herrings, but they also eat squid and crustaceans.

When foraging they can travel distances up to 110 kms (68 miles) on a single trip.


African Penguins pair up for life and breeding occurs throughout the year, although the main breeding begins in February. Nests are constructed using guano and two eggs are laid and incubated for 38 - 42 days. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the chicks.

Upon hatching the chicks are cared for until they fledge at 8 - 18 weeks old. Females become sexually mature at 4 years of age and males at 5 years of age.


Predators of African Penguins include sharks, cape fur seals and killer whales. On land their eggs and chicks fall prey to mongoose, genet, cats, dogs and kelp gulls.


There are no subspecies of the African Penguin.

Interesting Facts

African Penguins are also known as:
Black-Footed Penguin
Jackass Penguin
Cape Penguin

The closest relatives of the African Penguin are: Humboldt Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Galapagos Penguin

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