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LEARN ABOUT PLAYFUL PENGUINS!
The black-footed penguin is also known by the name ‘Cape Penguin’ because they are found in South Africa. These birds stand 27 inches tall, weigh between 5-8 pounds. They have firm wings that are adapted to be used as flippers to help the penguins swim. Adaptations are characteristics or behaviors that animals have to help them survive. They are able to swim up to 12 miles an hour in the water and they seem somewhat “wobbly” on land. Their side-to-side pace appears awkward as they maneuver on dry ground. This penguin makes an odd sound called a bray when it communicates, which is similar to the sound a donkey makes.
Distinctive to these penguins is the color of the body and the horseshoe mark on their chest. The front area of the black-footed penguin has speckles of black on the white areas; each penguin’s pattern of speckles is unique, which allows each individual to be easily identified. Family members can easily find each other by the different markings on each of the penguins. The Black-Footed Penguin also has a small area of pink skin above the eyes and the beak. This patch of skin is called a heat window and the bare skin allows heat to escape to cool the bird. Black-footed penguins have a sturdy, black beak with a band of lighter color near the tip. The pointed beak is used to catch fish and carry the food back to the family. In addition to their flashy dressing, these penguins have hazel colored eyes, and of course, their webbed feet are black. Webbed feet and wing flippers help the penguin swim with great speed and agility.
MOLTING, HABITAT, AND DIETS OH MY!
Black-footed penguins generally lay 2 eggs in a nest made by both parents. It takes 40 days for the eggs to hatch, and both parents care for the babies while they grow. Baby penguins are hatched with a fluffy layer of gray feathers. The feathers help keep the baby protected and warm. As the baby matures, the feathers fall of and are replaced with new black and white feathers through a process called molting. It takes almost 2 to 3 years for each baby to fully mature into an adult.
The black-footed penguin’s natural habitat is in the ocean and rocky and sandy areas off the coast of South Africa. This species of penguin is the only one found around the southern coast of Africa, and they are not found anywhere else on Earth. Living in small colonies, the black-footed penguins make their way up and down the coastal area of southern Africa looking for food. Individuals have been known to travel 25 or more miles in search of food. Penguins enjoy feasting on squid, anchovies, sardines, and other small fish. A daily fish diet of 20% of their body weight must be maintained to provide energy to thrive.
While appearing to have been on earth for thousands of years, these birds have faced survival challenges in the past century. The population has declined in significant numbers, leaving the black-footed penguin in danger of extinction. Loss of food sources, water pollution, predators, and avian disease all contributed to the black-footed penguin being placed on the ‘endangered’ list by the IUCN (2015). Penguin World reports that as many as 19,000 of these penguins were killed as a result of an oil spill that took place in their area in the year 2000. To assist in protecting the black-footed penguin, conservation organizations have monitored the colonies, placed them on the endangered list, and participated in international breeding programs to ensure their survival.
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