This is the last penguin in the Flightless Friday series, but fear not! Flightless Friday will continue with other species of flightless birds.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is one of the most endangered species of penguin in the world, with an estimated population of only 4,000. It can be found on the south-east coast of the South Island of New Zealand and the Campbell and Auckland Islands. The Maori name for the Yellow-eyed Penguin is hoiho, which means “noise shouter.” Yellow-eye Penguin calls can be heard even above the noise of the waves crashing on the beach. It was thought that they were closely related to Little Blue Penguins due to their proximity, but they are more closely related to penguin species in the Eudyptes genus.
Yellow-eyed Penguins are medium-sized, standing 31 inches (79 cm) tall and weighing about 18 pounds (8 kg) depending on the time of year - they weigh less after moulting, because they have to stay ashore for three weeks until the moult is complete. Males tend to be larger than females. Most Yellow-eyed Penguins have the black and white coloring typical of other penguin species, but leucistic Yellow-eyed Penguins are pale where others are black. Yellow-eyed Penguins are named for the yellow bands of feathers on their heads, and the color of their irises.
The diet of Yellow-eyed Penguins consists mainly of fish, and supplemented by squid. Their foraging takes them to depths within 130 to 400 feet (40 to 120 meters), hunting in the benthic zone - the ecological zone that includes the sea floor and first few sub-layers. When the Yellow-eyed Penguins are breeding, they take short evening foraging trips instead of leaving at dawn and returning at dusk.
The breeding season of Yellow-eyed Penguins takes place from August to October, and they prefer isolated nesting sites in the forest to forming large breeding colonies. Breeding pairs mate for life, and both of them help to incubate the clutch of two eggs the female lays in the nest. After an incubation period of six to eight weeks, the chicks hatch and are cared for by both parents for six weeks. After that, both parents will leave the chick for short periods to forage, and the chicks fledge by February.
Yellow-eyed Penguins are considered to be an endangered species by the IUCN. Their greatest threat is habitat destruction, as the coastal forests within their range are being developed for agriculture and other human development. Cattle and sheep contribute to the destruction of habitat and can trample the nests and eggs. They are also preyed upon by dogs, cats, ferrets and rats, and are particularly vulnerable while moulting.
Source for all images used in this post.