African Black-Footed Penguin

The black-footed penguin has black legs and feet, placed close to the short pointed tail, forcing it to walk upright, like other penguin species. This penguin has those characteristic penguin white underbellies and black backs. A penguin uses its flippers (equivalent of wings) and small, slick feathers to literally “fly” through the water. Using its tail and webbed feet as rudders, the penguin can reach speeds of up to 22 mph. During periods of molting, a penguin cannot swim since all its feathers are lost at once. In the wild, the black-footed penguin spends almost half its life at sea, only coming to land to breed and molt. During nesting seasons (spring and fall), the penguin lives in large breeding colonies called rookeries. Breeding pairs are monogamous.  Nests must be constantly guarded from other penguins, so the parents take turns incubating and feeding the young so the other can go search for food.

African Black-footed Penguin

Spheniscus demersus

Habitat: Coastal islands of South and Southwest Africa

Diet in the wild: Mostly fish, some squid and small crustaceans

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Herring and capelin

Size: Weigh 6-8 pounds

Family: A baby penguin cannot swim because its feathers are not waterproof until 3 months of age

Status: Endangered

Did you know? The spot patterns on the chest of a black-footed penguin are unique to each individual, like fingerprints. At Caldwell Zoo, each penguin has a colored wing-band to make identification easy for our zookeepers. Male penguins have wing-bands on their right wings while females are on their left wings.


Speedy is one of our bachelors. However, that does not stop him from proudly performing his mating call. He is one of our sweetest penguins, occasionally allowing his keepers to pet his back. Typically you can find Speedy up on the rock which makes up the roof of some of the nesting boroughs on exhibit. To the staff at Caldwell, it is affectionately known as “Speedy’s rock”.


Rudy is very loveable and adorable. He is our oldest penguin, hatched on December 9th, 1993. His favorite activity is swimming; he is seen active in the water quite frequently. At feedings Rudy is always next to the right leg of the keeper. He lets them know he is there and that he is hungry by giving them a slight nip on their leg. Rudy surprised his keepers in the past year by coming up to them, shaking his head and braying in display. From time to time he will allow his keepers to pet him and scratch his head for minutes on end. He is a very affectionate and special penguin. We all hold him very dear in our hearts.

Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea got her name because when was younger she was noticeably docile. As an adult she still maintains a bit of those qualities but she is spirited when she needs to be, like when she protects her nest. During her time in Las Vegas, Sweet Pea and her mate at the time successfully produced a chick named Piper, another resident here at Caldwell Zoo. Sweet Pea is one of our most vigorous and talented fish eaters. While the penguins do get hand fed, the keeping staff will occasionally toss a fish to her since is very good at catching the fish in her mouth.


Jasper is a pair-bond with Sweet Pea, and she has herself a good man. Jasper is one of the gentlest males we have. He is a very good spouse to Sweet Pea, taking turns sitting on their nest. He rarely gets into quarrels with the other males and he is also comparatively very mellow with the keepers during breeding season. He is the only penguin here at Caldwell who porpoises while they swim, which he will do on occasion.


Originally named “Gus,” she obtained the name Piper from a naming contest that was held at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas where she was hatched. While Piper was not hatched here at Caldwell Zoo, she is the offspring to Sweet Pea. Mother and daughter were brought here to Caldwell together. Like her mother, Piper is a very quick and enthusiastic eater, a trait she has had her whole life.


Jeff is an exceptional mate to Piper. If she calls, he quickly comes over and will protect her if he feels the need. He likes to sit in the borough next to where Piper is sitting on their nest and makes sure nobody gets too close. He and Piper even go through their catastrophic molt together. Jeff was our rock star when being trained to stand on a scale for a routine weigh-in. He is typically one of the first to step up and get weighed. For a while he was too good. He would step on, get his fish, and then just stand there, turning down fish and staring at the keepers until he was ready to step off.


Donut is in a monogamous relationship with his girlfriend Buttercup. The couple opted for building their nest outside of a borough. Penguins have a distinct loud bray like mating display call; a call between mates. Each of our penguins has a unique sound to their call that makes them easily identified by the keepers. Donut’s call is the most recognizable; his call is very strong and reminds us of a freight train. Donut is our largest and heaviest penguin, typically weighing in around eight pounds. He needs the very healthy appetite to sustain his broad physique.


Taz is the most timid of all our penguins. Much of the time he needs other penguins to come up with him at feedings. Taz can be recognized by his eating routine. Most of the time he will take the fish handed to him, run over to the side and manipulate the fish before either eating it or dropping it in the water. When it falls into the water, he officially deems it not worth retrieving. It is Taz’s signature move.


Unlike her man, Donut, Buttercup is a very dainty eater. Almost always she will gently take the fish and quickly drop it to her feet. She then proceeds to barely lift it off the floor before dropping it again, and again, and again. Each time she takes it further and further away from the colony. She eventually eats it. That is unless Donut or somebody else snags it away. Didn’t her mother teach her not to play with her food? However, when a fish is thrown in to the water she is one of the quickest.


Wangari was given her name through a naming contest at her previous facility in North Carolina. She is named after Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist who founded the Green Belt Movement and who received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari loves to play and interact with her keepers. After feedings she will race them to door so she can spend time with them off exhibit. While being petted, she will many times talk to the keeper by braying. Her favorite enrichment is bubbles but she very much enjoys anything that dangles; she will play with keeper’s shoelaces and keys. When she gets very excited she will sprint around flapping her wings.


Adasha is joined us at Caldwell from Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park in October of 2015. Upon introduction, one penguin in particular took a special interest in her. That penguin was Taz. In fact, it wasn’t long after her introduction that Adasha was protecting her new friend. Adasha is a fairly independent penguin but she does have a shy side. She will approach keepers but still doesn’t want them to get too close, at least not yet. Despite that, she will venture out behind the scenes and wander around during routine cleaning. Adasha has come to earn the reputation of being one of our more particular eaters, for only a particular herring and feeding style will do.

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