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 beaks. 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: Fish, squid, vitamins and minerals

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.

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