Facts About African Penguin
The African penguin, also known as Cape penguin or South African penguin, is a species of penguin confined to southern African waters. Like all extant penguins, it is flightless, with a streamlined body and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
The African penguin is one of the smallest penguin species. Males are generally slightly larger than their female counterparts. African penguins are also widely known as “jackass” penguins, for their donkey-like bray. African penguins communicate with one another through vocalizations and body language.
10 Cool Facts About Penguins
- A group of penguins in the water is called a raft but on land they’re called a waddle!
- The black and white “tuxedo” look donned by most penguin species is a clever camouflage called countershading.
- Penguins may huddle together for several reasons.
- Penguins evolved to fly underwater.
- A penguin’s thick feathers aren’t the only way this bird stays warm.
- Penguins live in many locations and habitats.
- Contrary to many popular holiday cartoons, you’ll never see penguins and polar bears together in the wild.
- Penguin feet are adapted to walk long distances.
- Many male penguins gift female penguins with rocks in order to woo them.
- According to some animal experts, the penguin is one of the most streamlined animals in the world.
African Penguin Classification and Evolution
The African Penguin is a small to medium sized Penguin species that is found along the coast of South Africa and on a number of its surrounding islands. The African Penguin is thought to be most closely related to the Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins found in southern South America, and the Galapagos Penguin found in the Pacific Ocean near the Equator. The African Penguin was named for the fact that it is the only species of Penguin that is found breeding on the African Coast, and it is believed to be one of the first Penguin species to be discovered by humans.
African Penguin Anatomy and Appearance
The African Penguin is a fairly distinctive species of penguin with clean black and white markings and a sharply pointed black beak. The African Penguin also has black feet and a number of dot-like markings flecked across its white chest which are said to be as unique to the individual Penguin as a Human finger print is, along with a narrow black band. The male African Penguin is generally slightly larger than their female counterparts but both are fairly similar in appearance. One of the African Penguin’s most distinctive features is that they have pink glands above their eyes which help them to cope with the temperate climates. The hotter the African Penguin gets, the more blood is sent to these glands so it may be cooled by the surrounding air, which in turn, makes these glands more pink.
African Penguin Distribution and Habitat
The African Penguin is found on the south-western coast of Africa, living in 27 colonies on 24 islands between Namibia and Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with the largest colony found on Dyer Island, near Kleinbaai. African Penguins are most densely distributed around the cold, nutrient rich waters of the Benguela Current where there is a plentiful supply of food. Although they spend much of their time at sea, African Penguins gather in nesting sites on rocky islands where they spend their days in sheltered burrows to avoid the hot sun. They are one of the only Penguin species to be found in non-freezing conditions and cope with this by burrowing, emerging at dusk and dawn, and using the pink glands above their eyes to cool the blood down.
African Penguin Behaviour and Lifestyle
Like many other Penguin species, African Penguins are incredibly sociable birds, with adults forming pair bonds that last for life (as long as 10 years). African Penguins can often be seen grooming one another, which is not only practical for cleaning purposes, but also for removing parasites and even just rearranging feathers, constantly strengthening the social bond between the pair. Their courtship displays are often very noisy as the male and female Penguin call to each other using a series of donkey-like sounds. African Penguins are also known to submit to a spot of bathing only a few meters from the shore, which they are thought to do quite regularly to both clean and to cool themselves down in the heat.
African Penguin Reproduction and Life Cycles
African Penguins begin to breed at the average age of four, when a male and female will pair up, and tend to breed together for the rest of their lives. The female African Penguin either digs herself a burrow or finds a dip beneath a rock or bush, in which she lays two eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents for up to 40 days, when only one of the eggs will usually hatch. The African Penguin chicks are fed and kept warm by their parents constantly until they are a month old when they begin to be left on their own, forming crèches with other chicks for protection from predators. They tend to remain with their parents until they are between 3 and 5 months old, when they will leave the colony (this is dependant though on the supply and quality of food in the area). The chicks return to the colony after a couple of years to moult into their adult plumage. African Penguins generally live for between 10 and 15 years.