An African penguin population at Betty’s Bay provides opportunities for the public to observe them in their natural habitat. The African penguin is experiencing a catastrophic decline in its global population. As a result it is classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List. Stony Point is the only mainland colony of African Penguins that is known to be expanding.
The penguin colony at Stony Point started in 1982 and has subsequently grown to about 150 pairs. African penguins breed with one partner for their entire life. Each breeding pair will return to the same breeding colony and same nesting site each year. The age at first reproduction ranges between four and six years and life expectancy is up to 27 years in the wild.
African penguins are flightless aquatic birds with reduced wings that are modified to form efficient flippers for swimming. They have heavy bones to enable them to dive. The feathers in adults are specialized to form a thick coat of overlapping layers that assists with waterproofing, wind resistance and insulation. The penguin has a black bill and shortened tail. Each African penguin has a unique and distinct pattern of black spots on the white chest that can be used to distinguish individuals from one another.
The distinct pink patch of skin found above the bird’s eye helps the bird to cope with changing temperature. As the external temperature around the African penguin increases, the bird’s body sends more blood to the glands found at these pink patches of skin, causing the pink patches to change color and turn a darker shade of pink. This in turn causes the glands to be cooled down by the air surrounding it.
The African penguin’s black and white belly coloration is an important form of camouflage at sea. The white belly deters predation from underwater predators looking upwards and the black deters detection from predators swimming above the bird whilst looking down onto the dark depths of the water.
African penguins is a charismatic species that is known for its loud donkey-like braying noises (hence the nickname Jackass Penguin), distinctive black and white plumage and large breeding colonies. They are very clumsy on land, waddling upright with flippers held away from the body as if they are drunk.
Written by Van As Jordaan, uploaded by Jacques Jordaan.