Today is World Penguin Day!

Why? Because we can always use another excuse to celebrate our most adorable feathered friends. World Penguin Day is a time to draw attention to the plight of these endangered animals, and also to celebrate some of the quirks and behaviours that have made penguins true ambassadors of the animal kingdom.

The Two Oceans Aquarium's Penguin Exhibit, brought to you by Old Mutual Finance, is home to the African penguin and northern rockhopper penguin – both endangered species that need your help to survive. Our penguin ambassadors pose a simple challenge to you today: learn something fun, crazy, interesting or cute about these charming little birds and tell your friends and family.

Here is an idea you may never have considered:

With today being World Penguin Day, the Two Oceans Aquarium is a great place to bring the family and experience our 21 endangered African penguins in their colony. With their squawks and brays, they sure can be a noisy bunch - but wouldn’t it be amazing if we could understand what they are saying to each other? We bet you didn’t know that we actually do understand what they are saying to each other.

Learn to speak "penguin"

Here are some common phrases:

“Where are you!? I’m over here!”

This short call is one you’ll hear often on our sandy beach. Called a “contact call”, it is made by African penguin adults and juveniles who are either trying to find the colony after being separated, or trying to help other penguins find their way back.

“Shoo, this is my nest!”

Sometimes an African penguin just wants some personal space – when this happens they will utter a short growl to let another penguin know it needs to back off. This is called an “agonistic call” and luckily we don’t hear them too often!

“Honey, I’m home!”

When an African penguin returns to their mate after some time away, hunting or gathering nesting materials, they will greet each other with a “mutual display song”. Often, while doing this, the mates will bow, pointing their beaks towards their nest or towards their partner’s feet. This song is one of the ways that African penguins recognise their mates, an important skill for birds that mate for life.

“Look at me! I’m majestic!”

Sometimes having the biggest nest on the beach isn’t enough for a single penguin to be able to attract a mate. When this happens they will resort to spreading their wings, raising their beaks high and singing with their best singing voices, with the hopes of attracting a partner. African penguins are not songbirds, in fact this “ecstatic display song” is the reason they were once called “jackass penguins” … sounding as they do like braying donkeys.

“Mom, bring me food!”

Just like humans, adolescent penguins still rely on their parents to bring them food. Juvenile African penguins, between three and 12 months old, will let out a “begging moan” to encourage their parents to feed them.

“Mom, I’m hungry!”

When hungry, penguin chicks will call to their parents for attention using a high-pitched peep. Known as a "begging peep", this call is very short but is repeated by chicks in long sequences lasting for several minutes until they are fed.

This research was carried out by our fellow aquarists at Zoom Torino and the University of Torino in Italy. Feel free to read the full article if you want to learn more about these fascinating creatures - "The Vocal Repertoire of the African Penguin". Do the Italian penguins have accents, you ask? We don’t think so – and ours would probably get along amazingly with them.


Want to hear our penguins speak for themselves? Our African penguins are most vocal before and after feeding times: every day at 11h30 and 14h30. So come pay them a visit (just remember to squawk and bow back if they greet you)!

Buy your tickets online now, or get up close and personal with the rockhopper penguins by taking part in a Penguin Encounter. You can also add a donation to our conservation efforts when you purchase online.

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