Q: Where in Africa do these penguins live?
Q: What do African penguins look like?
Q: What do African penguins eat?
A: African penguins feed primarily on pelagic fish such as anchovies, sardines, horse mackerel and small fish. They are also known to eat crustaceans on occasion.
Q: How do African penguins catch their food?
Q: How long do African penguins live?
A: The average lifespan of an African penguin in the wild is between 10-15 years. Birds in captivity can live up to 20 years old; sometimes longer.
Q: What is a molt?
The new feathers grow under the old ones, and push the old feathers out. During the molt, large patches of feathers are pushed out by the new feathers. This is a big energy drain and the birds will look uncomfortable and scruffy. During this period penguins stay out of the water for the most part. The partially molted feathers no longer provide insulation and waterproofing.
Prior to molt, penguins build up a large layer of fat to provide energy for the molt as they cannot go into the water and feed. In captivity, penguins may eat a few fish while they are molting, because they do not have to go into the water to eat.
Q: What can you tell me about African penguin reproduction?
African penguins can breed at anytime of the year, with the peak breeding season varying with location. In the Northwest, peak egg laying occurs in Nov/Jan; in the Southwest in May/June and in the East in Apr/June. African penguins normally lay two eggs; the incubation period is 38-40 days and the parents share equally in attending to the nest. The chick will remain in the nest for 30 days, after which the parents both go to sea to gather food and the chick is left at the colony. The chicks may form small crèches or remain alone until the parents return with food. Depending on the availability of food, the chick’s downy feathers will be replaced with juvenile plumage at 60-130 days. Shortly after the juvenile plumage is attained, the adults abandon the chicks and the juvenile birds are left to learn how to forage and avoid predators on their own – this is one reason juvenile mortality is high.
Q: How do African penguins deal with the climate?
While on land, unlike Antarctic species of penguins, African penguins have to contend with warm temperate conditions when they emerge from the water. They may experience a sudden temperature shift of more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. or more. African penguins avoid overheating by breathing through their mouths, exposing their feet, and lifting their feathers - a process known as "bristling." The birds avoid standing in the sun and spend the day time hours either foraging at sea, or in burrows on land.
Q: Are African penguins endangered?
Many issues threaten penguin populations: over-fishing, pollution, oil spills, fluctuating temperatures, lack of sun protection, predation by Cape fur seals and sharks, predation of eggs and chicks by domestic cats and dogs, and habitat loss. Recent studies have found that the African penguin population's ability to rebound after decades of loss is directly linked to the decline of a very nutritional food source: sardines. Anchovies and other fish do not provide the high level of nutrition the penguins need. The collapse of the sardine fisheries in the last part of the 20th century is a major limiting factor in the penguins’ recovery. Conservation groups have become very effective in rescuing “oiled penguins” and deserted penguin chicks and returning them to the wild.
Q: How can I help African penguins?
A: You can help save them by buying from the Seafood Watch list of “Best Choice” sustainable seafood, including U.S. Pacific sardines. Visit seafoodwatch.org for more information.
Q: What else can you tell me about African penguins?