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Sex determination of African Penguins <i>Spheniscus demersus</i> using bill measurements: method comparisons and implications for use

Kate J. Campbell
Danielle Farah
Sarah Collins
Nola J. Parsons


African Penguins Spheniscus demersus are sexually dimorphic; on average, males are larger than females but measurements overlap making sex determination difficult through observations alone. We developed a discriminant function, using bill length and depth from a sample of birds sexed from gonad visualisation during post-mortem, which correctly classified 93% of the individuals. Cross-validation correctly assigned 90% of DNA-sexed birds and 91% of birds sexed by partner measurement comparisons. The use of discriminant function score cutpoints, while leaving 16% and 29% of birds unclassified, improved accuracy of birds sexed by DNA to 97% and of those sexed by partner comparison to 99%. Bill depth was found to be a discriminating variable. However, two techniques for measuring bill depth are currently in use for African Penguins. While these measurements are correlated (r = 0.85), they differ on average by 1.4 mm hindering accuracy of sex determination when using a discriminant function developed from the other bill depth measurement. Exploration of adult bill morphology of birds sexed from DNA at different colonies suggests the discriminant functions can be applied throughout the African Penguins’ South African range.

Keywords: beak morphology, discriminant function analysis, seabird, sexing, sexual dimorphism

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-947X
print ISSN: 0030-6525