Penguin Point

Caring for birds and mammals is still our top priority during these uncertain times. Please consider helping today. Through your donation or membership, we can continue providing for animals at the National Aviary, as well as sustain our educational programming. Join us: we're all in this together:

Penguin Point is home to the National Aviary's 20 African Penguins. This $1.7 million immersive exhibit transports visitors to the rocky shores of South Africa to experience the sights, sounds (and smells!) of a real penguin colony. This spacious open-air exhibit gives Aviary guests a 360-degree perspective of African penguins doing what penguins do best: waddling, squabbling, scaling rocks and torpedoing their way through the water. 

The birds’ aquatic antics are on view through an acrylic-fronted pool and through the wheelchair accessible Kids ViewTube under the exhibit. There guests find themselves in the swim, with underwater views of the penguins as they “fly” through the pool. Domed bubbles allow children to pop up in the midst of the exhibit’s noisy residents. (African penguins are also known as “jackass penguins” because of their honking, braying call.) Heated nest cubbies — also visible to visitors — will provide a cozy place for the birds to congregate during cold winter days.

The National Aviary breeds members of the penguin group as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) African Penguin Species Survival Plan, a carefully monitored breeding program that seeks to preserve healthy, genetically diverse populations of African penguins.

Penguin Point is also home to our flock of Smews. The Smew is a diving species of duck native to Europe, Russia, and northern Asia. They are cavity nesters, laying eggs in tree trunk hollows or reusing other birds' nest cavities. To encourage breeding among our Smews, we install a nest box. Smews naturally eat grains, bugs, and fish, so don’t be surprised if you see them coming up during feedings to steal a fish, sometimes right out of a penguin's beak!



#InvestInTheNest Artificial Nest Burrows

African Penguins may go extinct without a safe place to build their homes! Effects of human encroachment and harvesting of penguin guano (poop) has caused the beaches in South Africa (the penguins’ native home) to be less conducive to nesting.

Through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' #InvestInTheNest project, scientists and researchers have a solution - artificial nests for the endangered birds. 70 new and improved nest burrows are being placed in AZA facilities, including the National Aviary, and 2,000 will be placed in strategic locations in South Africa. Stop by Penguin Point to see this new, innovative nest burrow design.

The artificial burrow provides a safe, climate-controlled environment for penguins to nest. Its new design and materials keep penguins and chicks safe from the hot sun while allowing air to circulate around the burrow.

Seafood Watch

We've partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium as part of Seafood Watch. When you visit Penguin Point at the National Aviary, we encourage you to take one of the wallet-sized Seafood Watch reference cards provided. This handy reference helps you make seafood choices while shopping and dining that contribute to sustainable fishing practices – which in turn helps keep African Penguins and other ocean-going birds happy and healthy for years to come.