Today we will tell you interesting facts about the African penguin.
The African penguin is a small bird belonging to the family of Spheniscidae.
Nature conservation status
The number of African penguins decreased dramatically in the early 20th century due to human development of nesting biotopes, oil pollution of coastal waters, and several other reasons also related to human activities.
Thus, if by the beginning of the 21st century the number of this species was estimated at 4 million, by the end of the 20th century only 10% remained. Thus, the number of African penguins has fallen by dozens of times, and now, according to various estimates, ranges from 50,000 to 17,000 individuals.
At present, this penguin is listed in the Red List of South Africa and the International Red List in the group of endangered species (IUCN).
African penguin and man
All of the reasons behind this sharp decline in the number of African penguins are related to human activities. These include unlimited egg collection (prohibited only in 1969), the oil spill off the coast of South Africa, overfishing of small fish that feed the penguins, and human development of the nesting biotopes of these birds.
At present, the African penguin is under strict protection, and there are National Park or simply protected areas in its nesting sites. Tourist visits to these places, if allowed, are subject to strict rules. Visitors walk on specially laid wooden bridges raised above the ground, it is strictly prohibited to approach, touch, and feed birds.
Under this regime, penguins react completely calmly to the presence of people. Also, for penguins nesting on the sandy shore, there are special nesting houses. Now there is hope that the African penguin can be saved from complete extinction.
At present, the African penguin is under strict protection, in its nesting places created National Park or just protected areas. Tourist visits to these places, if allowed, are subject to strict rules. Visitors walk on specially laid wooden bridges raised above the ground, it is strictly forbidden to approach, touch, and feed birds. Under this regime, penguins react completely calmly to the presence of people. Also, for penguins nesting on the sandy shore, there are special nesting houses. Now there is hope that the African penguin can be saved from complete extinction.
Distribution and habitat
The African penguin nests on the southern and southwestern coast of Africa, washed by the cold Bengal current. For nesting colonies, it chooses rocky areas of the coast, but can also nest on the sandy shore. In national parks, people put up special shelter houses for them.
Appearance and coloring
The coloring of the African penguin is typical for all penguins – black back, white chest, and belly. It got its name for a peculiar pattern on his head. On his chest up to his paws is a narrow black stripe in the form of a horseshoe. The beak and the legs are black. The height of the African penguin reaches 65-70 cm, body weight up to 4 kg. Females are slightly smaller than males.
The African penguins spend most of the year at sea, but by the beginning of the breeding season come to the islands or parts of the coast of South Africa. However, during migration, they do not sail far from the coast, so they are classified as sedentary species. Like all penguins, the water feels easy and free.
They can reach speeds up to 20 km / h, dive to a depth of 100 m, hold their breath for 2-3 minutes. During the hunting can swim 70-120 km. Special organs on the head (pink “eyebrows” above the eyes) help these penguins to maintain the necessary body temperature.
The higher the bird’s body temperature, the more blood is directed to these organs. And thanks to their thin skin, the blood in them is quickly cooled by the surrounding air. During molting, penguins do not immerse themselves in water and lose the ability to feed. They spend about 20 days on land without eating. African penguins have many enemies, both in the water and onshore.
The main enemy, of course, is man, and in both environments of the penguins (catching birds, collecting eggs, pollution, etc.). In the water, sharks are hunted for penguins, and less often – seals. With the latter, the African penguins are also competing on land for places of rookeries and nesting colonies, and in the water – for food. For chicks and eggs on land, the danger is posed by large gulls and, in some places, feral cats.
Nutrition and feed behavior
They eat African penguins with small flocks of fish (fry herring, anchovies, sardines); they eat about 500 g of fish per day. Human overfishing off the coast of Africa is one of the reasons for the decline in this species of penguins.
The voice of the African penguin is loud, sharp, similar to the cry of a donkey, for which he is sometimes called a donkey penguin (in English it is called a donkey).
Reproduction and parenting behavior
The African penguin’s breeding season is not pronounced and varies depending on the place. Thus, in the northwest of the range, the peak breeding season is November-January, in the southwest – May-July, in the east – April-June.
African penguins are monogamous, 80-90% of pairs stay together for the next nesting season, and each pair returns to the same colony and the same nest. It is known cases when permanent pairs were kept for 10 years.
African penguins are nesting in the colonies. The nest is set in a hole or crevice in the rock and laid out with pebbles, twigs, and pieces of guano, which penguins collect near the nest. By the way, the guano helps to keep the necessary temperature in the nest. The clutch has 2 eggs 3-4 times larger than the chicken. Both parents sit alternately for 40 days. Change of partners in the nest occurs on average after 2.5 days.
Hatching chicks are first covered with brownish-gray down, and later – with a bluish tint. Feeding of chicks lasts about 80 days. For the first 15 days after hatching, one of the parents is constantly near the chicks, heating them until they are thermoregulated and protecting them from predators.
Protection of the chicks by one of the parents lasts about a month after which both parents go to feed the chicks and the young ones stay in the collective “kindergarten”. At the age of 60-130 days, they leave the colony and go to the sea, where they spend 12-22 months, after which they return to their native colony and cast into adult plumage. Usually, African penguins survive no more than 40% of their chicks.
Half-mature females become at the age of 4-5 years.
The lifespan of African penguins in the wild is 10-12 years.