Download This Sample
This sample is exclusively for KidsKonnect members!
To download this worksheet, click the button below to signup for free (it only takes a minute) and you'll be brought right back to this page to start the download!
Sign Me Up
Black, white, and cute all over, African penguins, Spheniscus demersus, are native to the coasts of Namibia and South Africa, in the Spheniscidae family. Also called “Cape penguin”, “black-footed penguin”, and “jackass penguin”, these flightless birds are one of the smallest penguin species, and are now classified as endangered.
See the fact file below for more information on the African Penguin
or alternatively, you can download our 21-page African Penguin
worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, in his book Systema Naturae, first classified the African penguin as a wandering albatross because of its bill and nostril, naming it Diomedea demersa.
- French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson introduced the genus Spheniscus. Banded penguins are under this genus type.
- Spheniscus is derived from the Greek word σφήν (sphen), which means “wedge”; this is in reference to the penguins’ thin, wedge-shaped flippers. There were originally nine species of the Spheniscus; however, there are now only four living species – the Magellanic penguin, Humboldt penguin, Galapagos penguin, and African penguin.
- Demersus, its species name, is a Latin word which means “plunging”.
- African penguins are small birds, standing between 60 to 68 cm (24 to 27 in), and weighing up to 3.7 to 4 kg (8 to 9 lbs). The males are believed to be slightly taller and heavier than the females.
- They are known for their black and white dense, waterproof feathers.
- Their chin and back plumage is black and the fringe on their breast is white. African penguins’ head also sports C-shaped regions covered with white feathers. Each African penguin has a unique pattern of black patches on its chest.
- Other distinctive features of African penguins include the small pink glands above their eyes and their black facial mask with a pointed beak.
- Juvenile or adolescent African penguins have gray feathers on their head and back, with white undersides. Chicks, on the other hand, are wrapped in gray to brown-gray feathers.
- They are nicknamed “jackass penguins” because of the loud, “braying” cry they produce when they try to communicate, almost like a donkey.
- These sounds and vocalizations are unique in each African penguin, and are of three types: bray (to attract mates), yell (to protect their territory), and haw (to distinguish their mates when they are apart).
- When African penguins feel that they are being threatened, they respond through body language. They make their chest larger, hold their wings back, and jerks their head from side to side.
- They camouflage through countershading through the use of their black and white plumage – white for underwater predators staring upwards, and black for predators searching for food down in the dark water.
- African penguins have two ways to adapt to hot and cold temperatures: (1) their waterproof feathers help them swim swiftly and insulate them when in cold water, and (2) the pink glands above their eyes keep them cool in hot temperatures. These pink glands turn darker, a way of cooling the blood from heat.
- They are pursuit divers and skilled water hunters, diving as deep as 400 feet and holding their breath for over 2 minutes underwater.
DIET AND HABITAT
- African penguins feed on pelagic fish, like sardines and anchovies, and marine invertebrates, such as squid and other crustaceans. They may eat up to 540 grams of food per day.
- Studies show that these penguins were once on a pilchard-based diet but because of the collapse of a commercial pilchard fishery in 1960, they began to eat anchovies.
- In the wild, their main predators include sharks, Cape fur seals, killer whales, leopards, mongoose, genet, and domestic cats and dogs. Kelp gulls snatch their eggs and newborn chicks.
- African penguins live in large colonies, and are only found on the south-western coast of Africa, usually at Boulders Beach near Cape Town, South Africa. They also live in islands between Namibia and Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
NESTING AND BREEDING
- African penguins reach sexual maturity at four years of age. The males court females using their donkey-like bray sounds.
- African penguins are monogamous; they mate for life. The females dig burrows in guano, in sand under a bush or a rock, or on bare ground.
- Their breeding season usually peaks from March to May in South Africa, and November to December in Namibia.
- The parents take turns incubating their two eggs for 40 days, in order to keep them warm and safe from predators. They alternately guard and feed their young for a month; after this time, the chicks can be left alone, although they gather in groups, called creches, for safety and warmth. When they reach 60 to 130 days, they start swimming into the open water on their own.
- Female African penguins remain fertile for 10 years.
- African penguins have an average life expectancy of 10 to 15 years in the wild.
- Currently, there are only about 52,000 African penguins left in the wild.
- The IUCN lists these penguins as endangered; their population has declined by 60 percent in the last 28 years.
- Some threats to these penguins include: (1) humans gathering penguin droppings (guano) as fertilizers, destroying their habitats, (2) humans collecting and selling their eggs, and (3) oil spills.
African Penguin Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the African Penguin across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use African Penguin worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the African penguins, Spheniscus demersus, which are native to the coasts of Namibia and South Africa, in the Spheniscidae family. Also called “Cape penguin”, “black-footed penguin”, and “jackass penguin”, these flightless birds are one of the smallest penguin species, and are now classified as endangered.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- African Penguin Facts
- Introducing Blackfoot
- Blackfoot’s Anatomy
- Blackfoot Facts
- Story of Blackfoot
- More About These Penguins
- Get in My Belly
- Humboldt and Blackfoot
- African Penguin Recap
- Call for Help
- Penguin Origami
Link/cite this page
If you reference any of the content on this page on your own website, please use the code below to cite this page as the original source.
Link will appear as African Penguin Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, December 3, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.