Closeup of an African penguin in front of a field of tall dry grass

African penguin

Cool birds!

Type

flamingo

Birds

Area

Southern African Coast

Southern Coastal Africa

Endangered Status

Endangered

facts

size
about 18
inches in height
An average soccer ball is 8.65 inches tall.
African penguin compared to an 8.65 in high soccer ball
food
fish
squid and shellfish
Pescatarian Carnivore
fish

African penguins eat small fish like anchovies and sardines as well as squid and shellfish.

habitat
beaches
Beach habitat

African penguins make their homes on rocky coastlines.

description

African penguin walking on sandy beach

They like it warm

Not all penguins live where it’s cold—African penguins live at the southern tip of Africa. Like other penguins, African penguins spend most of the day feeding in the ocean, and that helps keep them cool. Their land habitat can get quite warm, but bare skin on their legs and around their eyes helps them stay cool. They also stay in the shade when they can.

Two adult penguins sitting in their dug-out sand burrows with a juvenile sitting sleepily outside

Dig that burrow

Most other penguins lay their eggs out in the open, but African penguins have a different approach. They dig burrows to lay their eggs so they are protected from the sun’s heat. The young chicks stay in the burrows for about 3 weeks. After that, they go out to explore but return to the burrow to stay cool and avoid predators. On land, leopards, mongooses, and domestic dogs and cats hunt penguins. In the water, penguins must avoid sharks, fur seals, and orcas.

African penguins resting on a large boulder on a South African beach.

Rare birds

The African penguin is an endangered species—there are only about 52,000 birds left in the wild. What’s threatening them? One problem is that humans gather penguin droppings, called guano, for fertilizer. But to gather large amounts, heavy equipment is brought in that destroys the penguins’ nesting sites. Other threats include humans collecting penguin eggs for sale, competition with humans for fish, and oil spills.

quiz

Where do these birds lay their eggs?
In grass
In a burrow