African blackfooted penguin

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Spheniscus demersus

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    Cape anchovy, other small fishes

  • Size

    26.5 inches (68 cm)

  • Relatives

    Humboldt penguin, Magellanic penguin, Galápagos penguin and other penguins; Order Sphenisciformes

Natural History

Not all penguins live in snow and ice—African blackfooted penguins live in cold currents along the coast of South Africa. They're agile and graceful under water. Using their wings as flippers and their feet as rudders, they "fly" through the water fast enough to chase down schools of cape anchovy and other small fishes.

To keep warm in the cold water, blackfooted penguins have a double layer of insulation: densely packed feathers over a soft layer of down. On land, they face the opposite problem; they can overheat in hot sun. To keep their cool, they pant and pump blood to parts of their bodies with less insulation—their wings, faces and feet—where excess heat can escape.


Although all penguins are protected from hunting and egg collecting, many, including the blackfooted, face threats from oil pollution, habitat loss, introduced predators and overfishing.

Cool Facts

Penguins make good parents. They often keep the same mate for life, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding and protecting their chicks. 

Wild penguins eat close to 14 percent of their body weight each day. For a 150-pound (68-kg) person, that would be like eating 21 pounds (9.5 kg) of food a day!

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