Black-footed penguins, Spheniscus demersus (Description, distribution and feeding habits) – Video

This video was taken at Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, USA in June 2012

The black-footed penguins or African penguins, Spheniscus demersus are water birds which belong to the family Spheniscidae

Description: Black-footed penguins when fully developed grow to 60-70 centimeters tall and weigh between 2 and 5 kilograms. These penguins have black backs, faces, wings, feet and beaks. They have a black stripe and black spots on the chest. White stripes run around their faces to above their eyes. The color pattern of the bird (black above and white below) is a form of camouflage against underwater predators and predators looking down onto the dark water. Males are slightly larger than females. The average lifespan of the black-footed penguin is 10-11 years.

Distribution and habitats: Black-footed penguins are found exclusively in Africa. They live mainly on the south-western coast between Namibia and Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa where they live and breed. When not breeding, the birds can be found across Africa’s southern shore, from Gabon to Mozambique, generally within 40 kilometers of the ocean shore.

Feeding habits: It is estimated that about 40% of the black-footed penguin’s diet is composed of small pelagic fish such as anchovies (Engraulis capensis) and sardines (Sardinops sagax), horse mackerel and small fish. The bird forages also on marine invertebrates such as squid, small crustaceans and polychaete worm. Birds are capable to swim for long distance after their food (30-70 km from the coast. In regard to food quantities, it is claimed that the birds eat about 14% of their body weight each day. When penguins molt, they fast over the molting period (about 20 days) as their new feathers are not waterproof and hence birds would not be able to forage.

References: The Encyclopedia of Earth, Wikipedia, Mac Como Zoo, Monterey Bay Aquarium

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