January 20, 2017 African penguin Fact File Our Stories 0

Some basic ‘low down”:

We are known as the African penguin, previously we were referred to as the Jackass penguin but we objected. We do not believe it is politically correct to have the term “ass” in our name. They said that we sound like a donkey braying – we say a donkey sounds like a African penguin singing. For a while, we were called the Black-footed penguins. Seeing that most of our fellow penguin species have black feet we thought that this could be confusing. There are 18 penguin species worldwide (depending on which scientist you ask, there may be 19), but we are the only penguin species that can call Africa home – therefore we prefer to be called the African penguin and we are proud of it. We occur along the south-western African coastline, all the way from Namibia to Algoa Bay in South Africa.

Our scientific name is Spheniscus demersus.

Class: Aves

Order: Sphenisciformes.

Family: Spheniscidae.

We are part of the “banded” we like to say “branded” penguins, because of the black band over our chest. Our closest cousins are the Humboldt, Magellanic and Galapagos penguins.

Common names:

English: African Penguin, Blackfooted Penguin, Jackass Penguin

Afrikaans: Afrika Pikkewyn, Brul Pikkewyn

Xhosa: Inguza or Unombombiya

Adult weight: 2.5 – 3.5kg

Height when standing: 40 – 50cm.

When scientists measure us, they measure us as if we are lying down with our feet stretch out behind us. Therefore, if you take the scientifically correct measurement, from the tips of our toenails to the end of our beak we are between 60 and 70cm’s

Age at first breeding: 2-6 years normally 4

Breeding: African penguins have an extended breeding season, which enables them to breed throughout the year. The peak of the breeding season in Namibia (November to December) tends to be earlier than the peak in South Africa (March to May).

Eggs: 1-2 eggs. Incubation period of 40 days

Fledgling period: 60 – 130 days

Lifespan in the wild:  Average 10 – 15 years

Males and females dress the same, making it difficult to differentiate between sexes. Juveniles differ from adults in having blue-grey plumage with no white facial markings and no bold, defined bands. Maybe because they have not earned their stripes yet.

Swimming Speed: 15-20km/hour. Average 5km/hour when traveling

Dive depth: Usually less than 30m but can dive to a maximum of 130m

Dive duration: 2 – 5 minutes

Food:  Shoaling Fish like sardines & anchovies

Photographer – Chris Fallows