What do African Penguins Eat?

African penguins are also called Jackass penguins or Black-footed penguins found in the southern part, South Africa. Like other penguins, African penguins are also carnivores. They prey mainly on small pelagic fish where, squid, krill, and crab are as an add-on to their diet.

They are medium-sized penguins that have a short and strong beak that can efficiently trap the prey without slipping. When it is penguins, every one of us thinks them living in a frigid atmosphere but African penguins are exceptions, they live in a warmer climate.

The appearance of African penguins is unique with the inverted U-shaped band and dots over the white front side. The dots and the markings are different from penguin to the penguin and they are unique like a human fingerprint.

African penguins in Boulders Beach

African penguins in Boulders Beach

Food of African penguins:

African penguins eat fish like herrings, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and invertebrates such as squid and krill. They eat fishes by diving to the speed of 12.5 mph and their dive last up to 2.5 minutes.

In the southern African coast and islands, African penguins find their food and stay in colonies. The distance covered in hunting depends on the availability of food.

On the west coast they travel around 30 to 70 kilometers and on the south coast, they travel to 110 kilometers while hunting. African penguins cover longer distance when hunting for fish.

African penguins consume 540 grams of food per day in normal days and while raising the chicks the quantity of food intake increases drastically to 1 kg per day.

Even though African penguins are very protective parents, when the food is scarce they feed themselves first to survive which leads to loss of chicks. The first 15 days the chicks are brooded by one of their parents until they adjust to the cold temperatures.

During incubating and raising the chicks, one of the parents goes for hunting to feed the chick.

African penguin on the rocky land

African penguin on the rocky land


The habitat and the interconnection with the food of African penguins:

African penguins are found only in the southwestern coast of South Africa. They are found in 24 islands between Namibia and Port Elizabeth. They are the only species of penguins living in the Southern part of Africa and they are not found anywhere else in the world.

They live in places where there is a lot of small fish species available. Since African penguins are carnivores they don’t prefer plants in their diet.

African penguins are not found swallowing many numbers of stones as that of chinstrap and rockhopper penguins. The reason behind this is assumed to be the digestive capability in the warmer conditions.

Boulders beach and Betty’s bay are the two places most popularly known amongst tourists and you can see the African penguins swimming and diving alongside the people.

African penguins are not afraid of humans. They love to follow the human out of curiosity. Like any other living penguin species, African penguins also endure molting season, where they fast for few weeks until their new feathers grow. During their fasting period, they do not prefer to swim in the cold water for hunting.

They store sufficient energy to withstand the days without food. Since they don’t live in the icy atmosphere African penguins don’t crowd in the colony as much as emperor penguins huddle during cold. For their physique, they have enough of natural blubber (fat) layer covering the body.


Since African penguins live in temperate regions, their body is balanced with little care when compared to those of emperor and other penguins that live in the real Antarctic cold.

African penguins eat pelagic fish abundantly found in the southern part of Africa. They can easily digest them with their natural ability. Crustaceans like krill, shrimp, and crab also fall in the diet chart but not predominantly included as the main diet.

When African penguins dive deeper they swallow fish while swimming and also eat squid if they find less fish population. African penguins are a vulnerable species because of the egg harvesting, overfishing and water pollution caused by humans and also suffer the climatic changes.


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I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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