Get ready for the most patriotic penguin! It has to be, right? Since we’re talking about it the same week as Canada Day and the Fourth of July?
The Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) can be found in New Zealand, on the South Island, Solander Islands and Steward Island/Rakikura. Though many people associate penguins with ice and snow, these penguins are native to the temperate rain forests of the islands. The Maori call the Fiordland Penguin tawaki, and it was described by an English zoologist named George Robert Gray in 1845. They are one of the smaller species of penguin.
Adult Fiordland Penguins grow to heights of around 24 inches (60 cm), and weigh only 13 pounds (5.9 kg). They are similar in appearance to other crested penguins, with the tufts of yellow feathers running over their eyes toward the back of their head. They have tough, red-brown bills. Many of them have white markings on their faces, though these stripes don’t show until the penguins are fully grown. Juvenile Fiordland Penguins are hard to distinguish from their close relatives, the Snares Penguins.
The Fiordland Penguins forage in the sea, and the bulk of their diet consists of squid, though the primary food sources vary by location. In some parts of its range, small pelagic fish make up about 80% of their diet. They will also eat crustaceans. They have been observed as far as the western coasts of Australia, the Tasman sea, and the Chathams, Macquarie and Campbell Islands.
The breeding season of Fiordland Penguins occurs in June and July, with the males arriving at the breeding grounds before the females to scope out prime nesting sites. Fiordland Penguins prefer to hide their nests even from other mating pairs, and mating pairs are monogamous. The females will usually lay a clutch of two eggs, but usually only one of them will hatch. One the rare occasion that both eggs hatch, the parents are usually unable to provide enough food for both of them, and the smaller one will die. Most of the time, the parents only have one chick to feed, however, and will take turns guarding and foraging for the chick.
Fiordland Penguins are considered to be a vulnerable species by the IUCN, because they have seen a decline in breeding population since the 1980s, from around 10,000 breeding pairs to between 2,500 and 3,000 today. Introduced animals like domesticated dogs and cats, or stoats have preyed upon eggs and chicks, preventing the Fiordland Penguins from naturally maintaining their populations. The weka, another flightless bird native to New Zealand, also preys on the eggs.
Source for all images used in this post.