Ricochet News

SANCCOB encourages the public to be on the look out for young moulting penguins.

SANCCOB encourages the public to be on the look out for young moulting penguins.

Every year, African penguins moult their feathers - a process during which both adult and juvenile birds lose their outer waterproof layer and stop feeding while they shed one set of feathers to be replaced by a brand new set. Prior to the moult, the individual bird will fatten up to endure the 3-4 week process on land, before returning to sea. This moulting period usually occurs in the penguin colonies.

Currently, the SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) Eastern Cape team is admitting an increased number of stranded moulting juvenile African penguins.  ‘Most of these moulting or arrested moulting juveniles admitted to the rehabilitation facility are showing signs of malnourishment,’ says Albert Snyman, senior Bird Rehabilitator at SANCCOB Eastern Cape.

According to Dr Nola Parsons, SANCCOB Researcher: ‘Every year between May and September, the young African penguins fledge from the Eastern Cape colonies, generally moving clockwise around the coast, down to the Mossel Bay and Cape Agulhas areas, with some fledgings going up the West Coast, following the ocean currents and fish stock.  The juveniles yet to return to their colonies before their first annual moult, may be prospecting at other colonies for this period, as is evident in the larger number of moulters at the Stony Point colony (Betty’s Bay, Western Cape), compared to the number of residing breeding pairs.’

Even though both Eastern Cape colonies are off-shore, spotting juvenile moulters ‘stranded’ on the mainland along the south and east coast occurs at this time of the year (from December to March) as they return from their trip south after fledging. They may be inexperienced at finding their colonies again or not in good enough condition to swim back home.

SANCCOB Eastern Cape urges the public to be vigilant and to report moulting birds.  Signs to look out for –

  • Puffed up appearance
  • Lethargy
  • Losing feathers
  • Brown and scruffy feathers

With numerous disruptive factors posed at these moulting penguins on land, you can actively help SANCCOB and partners to conserve seabirds by reporting stranded or abandoned seabirds – your call can save a life.  

Please call our friendly team at Cape St Francis on 082 890 0207 or support our operations by donating or adopting one of our penguins online or at our centre. www.sanccob.co.za.


Image supplied.