African Penguin

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Image: Africanpenguin.jpg

Common Name: African Penguin

Scientific Name: Spheniscus demersus

Size: 26 ¾ - 27 ½ inches (68-70 cm)

Habitat: Africa. Found around the coast of South Africa. Colonies are formed on the rocky shores when they are breeding.

Status: Endangered. Global Population: 52,000 mature individuals. Major reasons include depletion of their food from overfishing and pollution from incidences such as oil spills. Most nest on islands, where they should be safe from predators, but cats, mongoose and other introduced predators are now present on many of these islands.

Diet: Small fishes, such as herring, anchovies and sardines, but they also eat squid and crustaceans. When foraging they can travel distances up to 110 kms on a single trip.

Nesting: They tend to molt 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 pair up for life and breeding occurs throughout the year, although the main breeding begins in February. They lay their eggs on rocky and sandy coastal islands and breed in huge, noisy colonies. They lay two eggs in burrows, bowl-shaped depressions dug in the sand, which protect the eggs from the sun. Like all penguins, they form tight pair bonds, and both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks for 2-4 months. The chicks are old enough to breed in 2-4 years.

Cool Facts: African penguins are closely related to the Humboldt, Galapagos and Magellanic penguins. These penguins give out a loud, braying call that is similar to that of a donkey thus they're given the nickname, "jackass penguins". The pink glands above each eye will become pinker when the penguin is hot. This is due to more blood flowing through them so that it can be cooled by the surrounding air.

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

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