Teensy flightless birds!
The Little Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest of all penguin species, and can be found along the coast of southern Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. Other common names for them include little penguins, fairy penguins and blue penguins. In New Zealand, the Maori word for them is kororā. In parts of Australia and New Zealand, colonies of Little Blue Penguins are a popular tourist attraction, because they form “penguin parades” after they’re finished foraging for the day, coming back to the beaches and returning to their burrows for the night.
Adult Little Blue Penguins stand only 13 inches (33 cm) tall, at most. Though they are bi-colored like other penguins, their dark feathers are often blue, brownish or gray, depending on their age. Their bills are dark gray, and their eyes can be silver or light blue in color. Their feet are pale pink on top and black on the bottom. They weigh only 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg). There are a few disputed subspecies of Little Blue Penguins distributed among the primary breeding colonies, and the white-flippered penguin is generally also considered to be a subspecies.
The diet of Little Blue Penguins consists of species that they can get relatively close to shore, at relatively shallow depths. The specific prey depends on the range of the penguin, but includes crustaceans, cephalopods like arrow squid, and small fish like anchovies and sardines. Half of their prey is caught within 6 feet (2 meters) of the surface of the water, but Little Blue Penguins are capable of diving to depths of 65 feet (20 meters) and staying submerged for at least a minute.
Little Blue Penguins form seasonal breeding pairs, usually choosing different partners each year. They often breed in colonies, but are able to breed as individual, isolated mated pairs. Breeding season depends on the specific breeding colony, but often starts around August or September. Unlike many other penguins, however, Little Blue Penguins do not always limit themselves to just one clutch. Often a second or even third clutch is laid, which can extend the season of baby chicks well into May. Nests consist of dug burrows, rock crevices, or really any nook the penguins find close to shore. The eggs are incubated for up to 38 days, and the chicks fledge when they are 8 weeks old.
Little Blue Penguins are vulnerable to predation by many different land animals, like foxes, stoats, rats, cats, dogs and large reptiles. Even a few predators can have a devastating impact on a colony, and conservation attempts have included both the institution of dog-free beach zones and the use of trained sheep dogs to protect the penguins from other predators. Little Blue Penguins can also become casualties of fishing (particularly net fishing) and littering, as well as oil spills and human encroachment on their range.
Source for all images used in this post.