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African penguin

Spheniscus demersus

Foto: African penguin
Váhy a míry
Výška v kohoutku od 65 do 70 cm
Hmotnost od 2,9 do 3,1 kg
Stav ohrožení
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The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), also known as the Cape penguin or South African penguin, is a charming and distinctive species of penguin that is native to the coastal regions of Southern Africa. Distinguished by its striking black and white plumage and a unique pattern of black spots scattered across its chest, the African penguin stands out among the world's 18 penguin species. Adults typically weigh between 2.2 to 3.5 kilograms and reach a height of approximately 60 to 70 centimeters, making them one of the smaller penguin species.

One of the most captivating features of the African penguin is its sharply contrasted black-and-white coloring. The black plumage on their backs and white bellies with a horseshoe-shaped band that extends up onto the chest serves as camouflage in the water, protecting them from predators. Their faces are marked with a black band that loops around their eyes and down the chin, and their short, stout beaks are adapted for their diet, primarily consisting of fish such as anchovies and sardines, along with some squid and crustaceans.

African penguins are social birds, living in colonies on islands and rocky coastal areas. These colonies are crucial for their breeding and social interactions. They are monogamous creatures, with pairs often remaining together for many years and returning to the same nesting site annually. Their nests are constructed in burrows they dig themselves, under vegetation, or in guano, to provide protection from the harsh sun and predators. The female typically lays two eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the hatchlings through regurgitation.

The vocalizations of African penguins are another interesting aspect, often described as a braying sound, similar to that of a donkey, which has led to the nickname "jackass penguin." These calls are used for communication between mates, to establish territory, and to identify each other, especially in the crowded colonies where they live.

Unfortunately, the African penguin is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their numbers have drastically declined due to a combination of factors, including overfishing, which depletes their food sources; oil spills and pollution, which affect their health and breeding success; and climate change, which impacts the distribution of fish stocks. Conservation efforts are underway to protect these unique birds, including establishing marine protected areas, rehabilitation for oiled penguins, and breeding programs to help bolster their population.

In conclusion, the African penguin is a remarkable and endearing species that plays a vital role in the marine ecosystem. Despite their current endangered status, ongoing conservation efforts offer hope for their future. Their presence enriches the biodiversity of their habitat and highlights the importance of preserving the natural world.
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