The African Penguin, who is found only in Africa, is also known as Jackass Penguin and
the Blackfooted Penguin. African Penguins prefer habitats where water temperatures are
cold and full of nutrients because most of their time is spent in the waters off shore.
They only come onshore when they breed, rest and molt. Unfortunately there are many
threats facing the African Penguin. What was at one time a plentiful species is now
endangered and moving quickly toward extinction. Below is a list of interesting
information and unique characteristics about this bird, including why they have become
endangered. Both adults and kids will find these facts informative.
African Penguin Facts - Description and Behavior
With a height of about 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall and a weight of no more than 8 lbs (3.6 kg),
the African Penguin is considered a medium sized bird.
With a white belly, black wings and back, and a black and white face, the most easily
identifiable characteristic of this bird is its black and white coloration.
Webbed feet, wings that function like flippers, short tails and water-proof feathers help
the African Penguin dive to depths of 427 feet (130 meters) below the surface of the water and
and swim at speeds of up to 12 miles per hour (20 km/h).
The African Penguin can considerably reduce its heart rate, allowing it to hunt
underwater for over two minutes before coming up for air.
The average life expectancy of an African Penguin in the wild is about 10 years.
The African Penguins live in colonies on a total of 24 different islands off of Africa.
They can also be found off the coast of Africa between Namibia and Port Elizabeth.
Guano is the name for the burrow that the African Penguins build out of their own feces.
African Penguin Facts - Endangered Species
Oil spills, commercial fishing, natural predators, less nesting space, and lack of
nesting material all contribute to the dramatic decline in the African Penguin
In the last 30 year, the population of African Penguins has seen a steep decline of
While all of the threats are contribute to this bird being endangered, oil spills and the after effects are the main reasons for its decline.
Oil spills not only poison the birds body if swallowed, but the outside of their body
becomes virtually useless to them. The oil prevents their feathers from working and
ultimately results in hypothermia. If the birds are not cleaned within a few days, they
will ultimately die.
Commercial fishing has resulted in less fish for the penguins which is their main food
source. They prefer to eat anchovies, sardines, mackerel and herrings but will also eat
various types of shellfish and squid.
The African Penguins eggs are also collected for food which greatly reduces the number of births.
Although most of the decline in population is a direct result of human impact, there are
environmental factors that contribute as well. The population of sardines and anchovies
has naturally shifted to the east, leaving them with less food.
So far, the best effort to reverse the damage already done has been to keep marine
protected areas off limits to commercial fishing.
Removal of the nesting material, guano, for fertilizer has forced the birds to change their nesting habits.