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African Penguin

Spheniscus demersus

Henry Vilas Zoo African Penguin

If there’s one animal you want on your swim team, it’s the African penguin! They can swim up to 60 miles in one trip, dive 430 feet underwater, and hold their breath for two and a half minutes.

Habitat: African penguins live on 24 rocky islands along the southwestern coast of Africa. The largest colony is located on Dyer Island and they are densely distributed around cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Benguela Current.

Diet: These carnivores eat ocean fish like anchovies and sardines, as well as some squid, shellfish, and crustaceans.

Family Life: Male and female penguins tend to breed together for life, starting at an average age of four years. A female will lay two eggs and incubate them for 40 days, though on average, only one egg will hatch. Hatchlings then remain with parents until they are three to five months old. Chicks leave the colony but return a few years later to shed into their adult plumage.

Henry Vilas Zoo African Penguin

The African penguin’s endangered status is categorized as endangered.

Henry Vilas Zoo Endangered Graphic
Henry Vilas Zoo African Penguin
  • Food shortages are a major threat to African penguins due to their often cold environments.
  • During the 20th century, human disturbances caused a population decline. Their guano, accumulated excrement, was collected for fertilizer, reducing nesting habitats. Eggs were also collected for food.
Henry Vilas Zoo African Penguin
Fun Facts
  • African penguin’s calls sound like a donkey! They have three calls: bray, yell, and haw.
  • Penguins have more feathers than most birds – up to 80 per square inch! These feathers protect them from the cold water around them.
  • African penguins lose their feathers once a year, which takes about 20 days. During this time, they cannot swim or eat and lost almost half their body weight.
  • They are believed to be one of the first penguin species to be discovered by humans.
Henry Vilas Zoo African Penguin
Quick Facts

CLASS: Aves (birds)
ORDER: Sphenisciformes (flightless birds)
FAMILY: Spheniscidae
GENUS: Spheniscus
SPECIES: Spheniscus demersus (African penguin)
LIFE SPAN: 10 – 15 years
SIZE: 24 – 27 inches (60 – 68 cm)
WEIGHT: 4.4 – 11 pounds (2 – 5 kg)

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