Abstract 1. 1. Retention times of food in stomachs of breeding and non-breeding African penguins ( Spheniscus demersus) were examined. 2. 2. Rates of gastric emptying in non-breeding birds were linearly related to the mass of food in the stomach. 3. 3. Breeding birds returned to the nest with more food in their stomachs when chicks were larger. The rate of regurgitation of food was linearly related to chick mass. 4. 4. Retention times of food in the stomachs of breeding penguins can only be explained by cognisance of observed regurgitation rates and by assuming that there is no gastric emptying through the pyloric sphincter.