Original Articles

Cave breeding by African Penguins near the northern extreme of their range: Sylvia Hill, Namibia

Published in: Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology
Volume 74, issue 3-4, 2003 , pages: 217–221
DOI: 10.2989/00306520309485395

Abstract

Only three mainland sites are known among the total 27 breeding colonies of the African Penguin, Spheniscus demersus: two in South Africa and one in Namibia. The latter is a unique cave site near the northern extreme of the species' range on the edge of the Namib Desert. To determine the colony size, long-term viability and any difference in breeding ecology relative to more southern sites we combined data from previous visits to the site with four visits in 2001. We found that about 240 to 300 birds use the Sylvia Hill cave, and about 90 nests are active with a laying peak in January. Eggs are laid on top of guano mounds not in burrows as is usual for this species. Smaller clutches (1.68 eggs/nest) but larger broods (x = 1.31 chicks/nest) were apparent in this colony than those farther south. Larger mean clutches farther south suggest a latitudinal trend in clutch size for Namibia's penguins. We found no evidence for a population decline over 17 years, and thus no evidence that birds at the periphery of their range moved southwards into core areas. We conclude that the colony is healthy and thriving despite a general decline in penguin numbers in southern Africa.

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