55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Planetarium will be closed Sep. 22, 23, 24

Live Penguin Cams 

November 5, 2009

Penguin Team Member: Vikki


Hi there, this is Vikki and I’m one of the penguin biologists at the Academy.  I have been working with penguins for over six years now, and am still fascinated by the social interactions that can be observed between individuals in a colony.  I also enjoy comparing and contrasting this colony of African penguins with the colony of Magellanic penguins that I worked with previously.  As one of the aviculturists on staff, I have the opportunity to work with all the birds that presently reside at the Academy.  Penguin antics will always be some of my favorites though!- Vikki McCloskey

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — Penguins @ 10:09 am


  1. Hi, is it true that, genetically, penguins are close relatives of storks?
    Also, are penguins nearsighted or do they has like an extra set of corneas (like a see through lid) they engage under water? I don’t see them bump into stuff. It’s like, ZOMG, 43 diopters or such. What’s their trick?

    Comment by Dave — November 8, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

  2. Dear Vikki:
    How closely related are the Magellanics to the African Blackfoot penguins? — even though they are from different continents, they are very similar in appearance. Do they have similar social behavior and ‘personalities’? Are their native environments similar?

    Comment by BB — November 11, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  3. Hi Dave, Based on molecular sequence data: studies place penguins closely related to petrels, loons, pelicans and frigatebirds; but have failed to resolve exact positions. Penguins are adapted to normal sight both in air and water. This is a result of 2 eye characteristics 1)Relatively flat cornea 2)Lens shape changes by constriction of the cilary and iris sphincter muscles. -Pamela

    Comment by pschaller — November 11, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  4. Hi BB, African penguins and Magellanic penguins are very closely related. They have interbred in captivity and are now, mostly kept seperately due to hybridization. The main differences in terms of appearance are size and chest markings. In general, African penguins are smaller in terms of weight and height. African penguins usually have only one full dark breast band, where Magellanics have two full breast bands. Some social and behavioral differences are that African penguins feed near their homes and adults stay on or very close to their colonial territories throughout the year. African penguins can also breed and molt year round (with some peak seasons). Magellanics are off-shore foragers and are migratory, usually traveling for several months away from where they nest. The Magellanics breed and molt in sychrony during very specific seasons.-Pamela

    Comment by pschaller — November 11, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  5. Thanks for the answers! So a flat cornea would indicate that most of the refraction is done by the lens? Could work, and presbyopia is probably not an issue. With humans methinks most of the refraction is due to the bulbous shape of teh cornea resulting in greater angles between air ant the eye…
    Can you give me some references where I can read up on that topic?

    Also, I have two more questions on breeding.
    I’ve never heard of hybridized penguins before, but it makes perfect sense. I found the paper form White&Clausen, so apparently it’s happening. In principle, could all penguins interbreed? Could be cute, like Adelie with Fairy…LOL, kawaii!
    My other question…I’ve heard that, in captivity, not all penguins can be “allowed” to breed and because of that they are sometimes tricked with a wooden egg. What’s up with that?

    Comment by Dave — November 11, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  6. how fast do penguins swim

    Comment by garrett — November 13, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  7. I was watching one swimming today, diving down, and he sure looked buoyant. I assume they have some sort of down, like ducks do, and oily and hollow feathers. Is the buoyancy just a result of the feathers, or do they have a substantial fat layer also?

    Comment by Susan — November 17, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  8. Hi Dave, Garrett and Susan: please see comments under Penguin Team Member: Monty for responses to your questions-P. Schaller.

    Comment by pschaller — November 24, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

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