Area of zoo
Enclosure status
IUCN status
Scientific name
Spheniscus demersus
South Africa and Nambia

African penguin facts

Because African penguins live in a warm climate, they don’t engage in a migration process like other birds do. They are a social bird and will remain in a large colony, working together to keep one another safe.

Being a social animal, African penguins use various forms of communication within their group. Using sight and sound, they are able to identify individuals in the group, including their mate.

Both males and females will help raise their young. Once an egg has been produced, Mum and Dad will take turns incubating the egg until it hatches. This can take around 40 days.

Like other penguins, the African penguin is a bird that has adapted to aquatic life. They are avid swimmers and can reach top speeds of up to 15 mph when underwater.

African penguins at Whipsnade Zoo
African penguins at Whipsnade Zoo

What do African penguins look like?

African penguins have distinctive pink glands above their eyes which help to regulate their body temperature. Their backs are predominately black, while their bellies are white with a black band in the shape of an upside-down U. Their faces also feature a black mask around their eyes and beak.

What do African penguins eat?

Schooling fish such as sardines, anchovies and squid.

Two African penguins grooming each other at Whipsnade Zoo
African penguin on a sandy beach in Cape Town South Africa

African penguin habitat

African penguins can be found on both land and in the sea. They come ashore to breed and moult before returning to the ocean for around four months at a time.

African penguin threats

Food shortages as a result of fisheries and environmental changes.