African Penguins (Jack Ass Penguins) colonies near Hermanus & Cape Town
They were originally named Jackass penguins (due to their braying calling sound), but were renamed African Penguins, as there is another penguin species in South America called Jackass penguin.
Boulders Beach derives its name from the groups of large granite boulders that are common in the area, originating from about 540 million years ago when molten granite formed the base of the overlaying Table Mountain sandstone.
In 1983 a pair of African Penguins was spotted on Foxy Beach at Boulders Beach and in 1985 they began to breed and Boulders Beach attracted other African Penguins. Since then the colony has grown rapidly, increasing initially at about 60% a year. By 1997 there were 2,350 adult birds and today there is estimated to be over 3,000. Such a quick growth of the colony was the result of immigration, particularly from Dyer Island - and reproduction. The birds have probably come to False Bay because of the good fishing available since commercial fishing has been banned in the Bay.
There is another colony at Stony Point, Betty’s Bay, (near Hermanus) which in 1982 was the first mainland colony to appear. Before that all the other nesting sites were on off shore islands around the South African coastline.
Percy Tours conduct tours to view these marvelous penguins, please click the button below for more info –
Although Simon's Town is very proud of its Penguins, nearby residents suffered as the birds invaded their gardens, destroyed the undergrowth and were generally very noisy and messy. The great increase in tourists has also been a problem. As a result, the area has now been taken over by Cape Peninsula National Park, the birds have been restrained from wandering inland by fences and board walks.
These penguins are tame but have a nasty bite. They will happily bask in the sun between people lying on the beach. They do not seem to be bothered by all the attention they get, but they do have some parts of the area to themselves. Nature reserves have been declared in South Africa to protect this endangered bird, which is listed on the Red Data Book. Dyer Island and Boulders Beach are the most important protected areas.
The African Penguins total breeding population in 2004 was estimated at 58,636 pairs. Currently the population is declining slowly. The original population in 1910 was estimated to be 1.5 million, before man intervened. In 2005, the population on the most Easterly islands (around Port Elizabeth) fell dramatically, probably as a result of the construction of a new ore terminal near the islands.
The penguins build their nests well apart, usually under bushes. Two eggs are laid and in good years both chicks are reared. Incubation takes 40 days, shared equally between both parents in shifts of 1 to 3 days. Chicks are brooded and guarded for 11 weeks after hatching, with feeding and guard duties shared between the parents. Chicks moult their first set of feathers and go to sea when they are between 70 to 100 days old.
African penguins feed mainly on small pelagic fish like pilchards, anchovies, horse mackerel and herrings. Competition with commercial fishing has forced them to adapt their diet and they now also eat squid and small crustaceans as well.
Penguins cannot fly and their comical walk is of great amusement to us human observers. Some would however say that they can fly through water. African penguins are excellent divers, swimming at a speed of up to 10kph and are capable of diving considerable depths of up to 35 meters, remaining under water for up to 2 minutes, therefore enabling them to reach fish that other birds cannot. Sometimes they travel considerable distances to feed, up to 30 to 70 kms away and have been known to travel over 200 kms. Particularly when they are feeding demanding older chicks, the adult penguins will spend much of their days at sea feeding. On average a penguin will eat about 300 grams of fish a day, although this will increase to over 1 kg before molting or when feeding older chicks.
Adult penguins moult for 21 days per year, usually during December and are unable to go to sea to feed during that time. They return to feed in January and begin mating and nesting between February and August.
The African Penguins natural enemies are Cape Fur Seals, Sharks, the occasional Orca and on land Mongoose, Gulls, Genet, Leopard at Betty’s Bay colony and domestic dogs and cats.
Please click our Articles Main Menu Page to view our extensive library of South Africa tourism related Articles and Things to See and Do.