Can I get a drum roll for today’s penguin?
The Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus) can be found on the Snares Islands off the coast of southern New Zealand. It is another species of crested penguin and is often compared to the Fiordland Penguin. It has a much smaller breeding territory than its relatives, however, making it the penguin with the most restricted distribution in the world. The Snares Islands consist of only 3.5 square kilometers of land, which supports 25,000 breeding pairs.
The Snares Penguin is on the smallish side, standing only 28 inches (70 cm) tall and weighing approximately 8.8 pounds (4 kg) depending on the season. They have bright yellow crests, one over each eye. Their dark feathers are blue-black, and they have white feathers on their bellies. Their bills are orange-brown, and are lined with pale pink bare skin - the Fiordland Penguin has no bare skin around its bill. Snares Penguins have dark red eyes.
The diet of the Snares Penguin consists mainly of krill, different kinds of fish, and squid. They do not tend to travel very far during the winter, but in summer they have been spotted as far as Tasmania, southern Australia and Stewart Island. They nest in the dense forests along the rocky shores of the Snares, constructing the nests by digging holes and lining them with vegetation, pebbles, dirt and guano.
Breeding season starts in August, with the males arriving at the nesting sites before the females. After the nests are constructed, the surrounding vegetation usually dies, so the colonies rotate nesting sites. Snares Penguins form monogamous breeding pairs, which they likely maintain for at least a few seasons, but it’s unknown whether they form lifelong pairings. Females lay a clutch of two eggs, the second of which is significantly larger. In the rare circumstance when both eggs hatch, the chick from the first one is weaker, and usually does not survive. The chicks fledge at 11 weeks.
Snares Penguins are considered to be a vulnerable species by the IUCN, due to their very limited range. While the Snares Islands are currently free of predators, if a predatory species were to be introduced it could wipe out the species. Any natural or man-made disaster could also have a terrible effect on their population. Because of this, the Snares Islands are protected as nature reserves.
Source for all images used in this post.