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What is an African Penguin?

Patti Kate
Patti Kate

An African penguin is one of the flightless species in the avian world, indigenous to the southern coastline of Africa. This seabird is sometimes called a black-footed penguin. Typically weighing about 10 or 11 pounds (approximately 4.5 kg) and standing between 25-28 inches tall (64-71 cm), the African penguin can only be found on its native continent. These types of penguins typically have small spots on the front of their bodies.

The head of the African penguin is black, with a distinctive yellow stripe on either side. Also noticeable is a black band that runs across the chest. The skin surrounding the eyes of the African penguin is bare, which means these birds have no feathers in the eye area. These species are similar in appearance to other larger varieties, although the African is a medium-sized species of penguin. Males and females bare no visible differences.


African penguins are adept at hunting fish of all kinds in the waters where they dwell. Fish is their primary source of nutrition and food source. These penguins will typically consume up to 1.5 pounds (1-2 kg) of seafood per day. Two dozen varieties of fish are typically included in the African penguin's diet. When food is scarce, African penguins will travel great distances to feed.

Sometimes called the jackass penguin for the unusual braying cry they emit, these birds will breed amid 24 islands off the coast of South Africa. What makes this species of penguin unique is the climate in which they dwell. They reside and breed in tropical-like climates, unlike most other penguin species.

Breeding season is typically in late winter for this species of penguin, although many breed year-round. Like many other species, the African penguin will lay two or three eggs that usually hatch around early spring. The offspring will generally be cared for by both parents until they are about two months of age.

Less than half of the young reach full maturity due to their vulnerability to predators. Those fortunate enough to survive will eventually find a mate and remain with this partner for the duration of their lives. Because of the limited potential for their survival, steps have been taken to preserve these endangered species' habitats. Many of the African penguin breeding areas have been well preserved and guarded and designated areas have been transformed into nature reserve parks.

Experts predict the average lifespan for African penguins may be 12-15 years in captivity. In the wild, where they are vulnerable to predators, these penguins typically do not survive past the age of 10 years. Other than predators of various kinds, a big threat to the population of this species are oil spills.

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