African Penguin

Close-up of an African Penguin with it's head peering through clear water.

Animal's Behavior

The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is one of 18 species of penguin found in the world. When you think of penguins, you may picture them surrounded by snow and ice. However, there is one species of penguins that is acclimated to warmer climates. African penguins live in colonies on the coast and islands of southern Africa. The most notable aspect of African Penguin behavior is the loud donkey-like braying noise emitted during the ecstatic display. African penguins breed in huge, noisy colonies. They lay two eggs in burrows, bowl-shaped depressions dug in the sand, which protect the eggs from the sun. Similar to other species of penguin, they tend to form tight pair bonds, and both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks for 2 to 4 months. The chicks are old enough to breed in 2 to 4 years.

23 - 25 inches tall; 5- 9 pounds

Eating Habits
Small fishes; such as pilchard, anchovies, horse mackerel, and sardines

Between Namibia and Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with the largest colony on Dyer Island, near Kleinbaai

Conservation Efforts
Wild African Penguins can live for an average of 10-15 years, however many do not reach their full life span, and populations have been steadily decreasing. Major reasons include depletion of their food from overfishing, climate change, and pollution from incidences such as oil spills. African penguins are now considered endangered by IUCN’s Red List. The African Penguin is a pilot species of AZA’s newest conservation initiative, SAFE: Saving Animals from Extinction. AZA-accredited institutions and partners—including the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB)—are working hard to make sure that this popular species has a sustainable future both in captivity and in the wild.

Animal Facts
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is home to more than 20 African Penguins. No two penguins are exactly alike, but they are very similar. The keepers are able to tell them apart based on small differences in feather patterns and personalities. Guests can tell individual birds apart by looking at their wing bands. Females have red bands on their left wing, while males have blue bands on their right wing.