African Penguin - Also Called: Jackass Penguins, Cape Penguins

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Height: 65 cm (26 inches) for average adult.

Weight: 4 to 5 kg (9 to 10 lbs) for average adult.


  • Black and white with single black chest band on white chest.
  • Bill is black with a white band surrounding it about one-third from the tip.
  • Eyes surrounded by pink skin.
  • Juveniles covered with dark grey down.
  • Individualistic black chest spots on adults.


  • Black.


  • Likes to feed on anchovies and sardines.


  • Islands and some mainland sites in South Africa.
  • In the past burrowed into the guano layers but this has been harvested for use as an agricultural fertilizer.
  • Nest in burrows to protect their young from the heat of the summer and predators.
  • When no burrowing locations can be found they nest in the open.
  • Surface nesting makes penguins vulnerable to flooding of nests and predators.


  • Male arrives at the breeding site, finds a burrow and vocalizes.
  • Female will answer his call, walk around him and they rub bills.
  • Mutual preening, bill rubbing and vocalizations reinforce their bond.
  • The female lay 2 eggs a few days apart.
  • Both parents take turns incubating the egg relieving each other for fishing expeditions.
  • Crèches form as the chicks reach 3 to 4 weeks of age.
  • Chicks fledge at 2 1/2 months then go to sea.
  • Pair bonds are long lasting and generally mate for life.
  • These penguins breed year round with each site having a favorable breeding period because of the moderate temperatures.


  • Kelp Gulls and feral cats while nesting on eggs and chicks.
  • Seals and sharks while adults at sea.
  • Disturbed and killed by vehicle traffic.

Interesting Facts

  • Marine pollution and oil spills are largely responsible for the decline of the South African penguin population.
  • Fisheries compete for the penguins preferred fish: sardines and anchovies.
  • Until 1967 South African penguin eggs were harvested as a delicacy.
  • Formerly called Black-Footed, Cape or Jackass Penguins, because of their loud donkey like vocalizations. © All rights reserved.

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