Spheniscus demersus, also known as the Cape penguin or South African penguin, is a penguin species found only in southern African waters. It is flightless, like all extant penguins, with a streamlined body and stiffened and flattened wings into flippers for a marine habitat. Adults weigh 2.2–3.5 kg (4.9–7.7 lb) on average and stand 60–70 cm (24–28 in) tall.
The species has a black face mask and pink patches of skin above the eyes. The black upper body is clearly distinguished from the white underbody, which is spotted and marked with a black band. Their thermoregulation (ability to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries), is aided by the pink glands above their eyes. Blood is sent to the glands to be cooled by the air to deal with changing temperatures.
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Physical characteristics of African Penguin
African penguins reach a height of 60–70 cm (24–28 in) and weigh 2.2–3.5 kg (4.9–7.7 lb). They have a black line and black spots on their chests, each with its pattern, similar to human fingerprints in its unique identification.
Sweat glands above the eyes cool the blood of the birds, and increased blood flow causes the glands to turn pink as the temperature increases. This species has a slight sexual dimorphism, with males being slightly taller and having longer beaks than females.
Juveniles lack the adult’s bold, delineated markings, instead sporting dark upper parts that range from greyish-blue to brown and pale underparts that are devoid of both spots and the adult’s band.
The beak is more pointed than its cousin’s the Humboldt of coastal Peru. The African penguin’s coloring is a type of countershading, which is a type of defensive coloration. Predators find the penguins’ white undersides difficult to distinguish underwater, and their black backs blend in with the water when viewed from above.
Habitat of African Penguin
The African penguin can only be found on Africa’s southwestern coast, where it lives in colonies on 24 islands between Namibia and Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth. It is the only penguin species that breeds in Africa, and the Penguin Islands were named after it.
In the 1980s, penguin colonies were developed on the mainland near Cape Town, at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town, and Stony Point in Betty’s Bay. While the Betty’s Bay colony has been invaded by leopards, mainland colonies have only recently become possible due to reduced predator numbers. The only other mainland colony is in Namibia, but its founding date is unknown.
Boulders Beach is a popular tourist destination because of its beach, swimming, and penguins. The penguins would encourage people to get within a meter of them. Many zoos around the world have breeding colonies of African penguins. There are no colonies known outside of Africa’s south-western coast, though vagrants (mostly juveniles) have been seen outside of the usual range on occasion.
Diet of The African Penguin
African penguins hunt for pelagic fish like sardines and anchovies as well as marine invertebrates like squid and small crustaceans in the open sea. Penguins typically swim within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius of the sea. A penguin can eat up to 540 grams (1.19 lb) of prey each day, but when raising older chicks, this can rise to over 1 kg (2.2 lb).
African penguins are monogamous. It means that they breed with the same partner for the rest of their lives. However, they can change partners if breeding has failed for some reason. The penguins breed in colonies, often on rocky shore islands, and each breeding pair returns to the same breeding colony and nesting site year after year.
African penguins used to build their nests in guano layers found on most islands, but after most guano deposits were exhausted due to commercial exploitation, African penguins were forced to find new places to build their nests. Burrows in sandy soils, depressions under boulders or vegetation, crevices between rocks, and man-made nests are examples of these.
Seaweed, rocks, shells, bones, vegetation fragments, and feathers are among the materials used to line the nest. African penguins have a year-round breeding season, allowing them to reproduce all year. Namibia’s breeding season (November to December) appears to start earlier than South Africa’s (March to May).
The average clutch size is one to two eggs, and the incubation period is 38–41 days. Both sexes are equally responsible for the incubation of the eggs. When one parent is in charge of incubating the egg, the other will go out to sea to forage or gather vegetative nesting material. To keep the incubation temperature steady, each parent has an incubation “pouch” on their body.
Fantastic Facts About African Penguins
- Unguarded African penguin babies may form crèches of about 55 chicks.
- The penguin may be extinct in the wild within 15 years
Current Threats and Conservation Status
The number of African penguins is rapidly decreasing. In the 1920s, the population of African penguins along the Namibian and South African coasts was estimated to be around one million breeding pairs, but this number has since dropped to less than 30 000 pairs. For example, it is estimated that South Africa’s breeding population has decreased by 95% in six years, from 69 000 pairs in 2001 to 20 000 pairs in 2011. As a result, the African penguin is expected to become extinct over the next 15 years.
About 169 African penguins are kept captive in South Africa, according to estimates. Bayworld, the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, Bester Birds, East London Aquarium, Hartebeespoort Aquarium, SANCCOB, Sea World Durban (with the largest number of birds), Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre, Two Oceans Aquarium, and World of Birds are among the places where you can see these penguins.
African penguins were listed as Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in May 2005. The species is currently listed in Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and is thus governed by the convention’s rules. The migration of African penguins from one captive population to another in South Africa is governed by a permitting mechanism that operates in tandem with applicable national and provincial laws.
Q & A About African Penguin
Do male African penguins have different plummage from females?
Males and female African penguins have the same plumage, making it difficult to differentiate between sexes.
African penguins, for example, live at the southern tip of Africa, where it is cold. African penguins, like other penguins, spend the majority of their days feeding in the water, which helps them stay cool. Their land habitat is hot, but bare skin on their legs and around their eyes keeps them cold.
What is the average temperature where African penguins live?
These birds inhabit inshore coastal waters with temperatures ranging from 5 to 20 degrees Celsius (41-68 oF). They can live in cold or warm environments through physiological adaptions and learning to survive.
What is the maximum depth an African penguin can dive?
African penguins can hold their breath for up to 2 minutes and dive to depths of over 400 feet in order to catch a variety of sea prey, including sardines and anchovies, as well as squid and crustaceans.
Where do African penguins live in South Africa?
There are two populations of African penguins on the mainland in South Africa, at Boulders Beach and Betty’s Bay close to Cape Town.
What predators do African penguins have?
Kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus), large herons, rats, African sacred ibises and the mongoose predate on African penguins.
Why are African penguins close to being extinct?
Fishing boats compete with the African penguin for resources, like sardines.