That’s it, you’re all grounded. Because today is Flightless Friday.
The Erect-crested Penguin (Eudyptes sclateri) is so called because it is the only one of the crested penguin species that can raise and lower the crest of yellow feathers that extends from the base of the bill over each eye. Erect-crested Penguins can be found primarily in the Antipodes and Bounty islands, with smaller colonies on the Campbell and Auckland Islands in New Zealand. It is not precisely known where the Erect-crested Penguins go when they are not at these breeding locations.
Erect-crested Penguins have the typical black and white coloring of other penguin species, with the addition of their yellow crests and reddish bills. Adult Erect-crested Penguins stand approximately 23 inches (60 cm) tall and weigh about 9 pounds (4 kg) depending on the time of year. On average, males are slightly larger than females. They prefer to make their nests on rocky coastal terrain, which can be placed up to 246 feet (75 meters) above sea level.
The exact diet of Erect-crested Penguins is not well-researched, but given their foraging habits they likely feed on krill, pelagic fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. They are extremely social and gather into huge colonies during the breeding season. Erect-crested Penguins have a wide vocabulary of gestures and vocalizations that they use in courtship displays, greeting each other by swinging their heads, bowing, opening their beaks and trumpeting, as well as quivering and preening. They also defend their nesting spots with aggressive displays which include barking and growling, and can escalate to locking bills and beating each other with their flippers.
The male Erect-crested Penguins are the first to return to the breeding grounds in September, where they squabble with each other for the best nesting sites. The females join them shortly afterward, and then lay a clutch of two eggs. The first egg is often small, while the second egg is significantly larger. The mating pairs will usually focus all of their incubation efforts on the second egg, and discard the first. The parents trade off incubating the egg for about 35 days, after which the female will head to the ocean to forage for herself and the newly-hatched chick. After the chick is about a month old, it is the male’s turn to forage.
Erect-crested Penguins are considered an endangered species by the IUCN, because its overall population has decreased by 50% over the last 45 years, and there’s no indication that this decline will not continue. Because it breeds in only a few locations, it is particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation. Fortunately, all of the islands where the Erect-crested Penguins nest are protected, with invasive species like sheep, cattle and rats being evicted from Campbell Island.
Source for all images used in this post.