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African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library fact sheet for the African penguin, Spheniscus demersus


African endemic

  • Africa's only endemic penguin (Brown et al. 1982; Crawford et al. 1990)


  • Temperate
  • Coastal waters and islands off southern Africa (Kemper et al. 2007; Roux et al. 2003; Shelton et al. 1984)
    • Breeding, resident colonies in South Africa and Namibia
    • Non-breeding, vagrants in Angola, Congo, Mozambique, and Gabon

Breeding colonies

  • Concentrated on a few islands off southern African coast
    • 17 colonies in South Africa and 11 in Namibia (Crawford et al. 2011)
      • As of 2013, pivotal breeding localities: Dassen, Dyer, and St. Croix islands (Crawford 2013)
    • Colony sizes fluctuate
      • Late 1980s
        • Dyer and St. Croix islands housed c. 70% of individuals in breeding colonies (Crawford et al. 1990)
      • Early 21st century
        • 7 islands home to 80% of individuals (Kemper et al. 2007)
        • Nearly 60% on Dassen and St. Croix islands (Kemper et al. 2007)
  • Mainland colonies, recently established (Kemper et al. 2007; Koenig 2007; Petersen et al. 2006)


Breeding habitat

  • Low-lying, rock-strewn islands (Frost et al. 1976b; la Cock et al. 1987)
  • Most within the Benguela Current (Frost et al. 1976b; Falla and Mougin 1979)

At sea (Siegfried et al. 1975)

  • Within 15 km from mainland
  • To 50 km (or more) from island colonies

Distribution Map

Map of African Penguin distibution

African Penguin distribution.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

Page Citations

Brown et al. (1982)
Crawford et al. (1990)
Crawford et al. (2011)
Crawford (2013)
Falla and Mougin (1979)
Frost et al. (1976b)
Kemper et al. (2007)
Koenig (2007)
la Cock et al. (1987)
Petersen et al. (2006)
Roux et al. (2003)
Shelton et al.(1984)
Siegfried et al. (1975)

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