Birding Without Borders

Day 206: Penguins of Africa

When can a bird be a jackass?

July 25, 2015: Cape Town, South Africa — One of my eventual goals is to see every penguin in the worldthere are about 18 species (depending on which taxonomist you ask) living on various southern islands and continents. I’ve already seen the 10 penguins in the Western Hemisphere (Emperor, King, Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Magellanic, Humboldt, Galapagos, Macaroni, and Rockhopper), and today I got a chance to add a special penguin of South Africa.

It’s called the Jackass Penguin (really!) because the bird literally sounds like an ass, braying in unmusical tones. The Jackass Penguin is closely related to South America’s Magellanic, Humboldt, and Galapagos penguins, and has a similar black-and-white tuxedo with an extra black stripe around the front. It nests in burrows and likes to hang out in groups.

Callan, Mike, and I spent today birding around the Cape and stopped by a Jackass Penguin colony at Stony Point in early afternoon. A couple hundred penguins stood around on rocks, some with fuzzy chicks, and watched us while we watched them. Like other penguins I’ve encountered, these had little fear of humans and appeared curious and indifferent to our presence. A group of them walked almost onto our shoelaces. Coolmy 11th penguin!

We found some other very nice birds today, including the Cape Rockjumper and Cape Sugarbird, endemic counterparts to the Drakensberg Rockjumper and Gurney’s Sugarbird I saw in eastern South Africa earlier this week, and a group of flamingos at sunset. The landscape around Cape Town is much different than I’ve encountered in other parts of South Africa; the wide-open spaces here remind me of southern Chile and Argentina near Tierra del Fuego. Winter is the rainy season here, but today was sunny and beautiful—my luck with the weather continues.

New birds today: 18

Year list: 3,722

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