The majority of the breeding population is on the remote Antipodes and
Bounty Islands, with smaller numbers on the Auckland Islands. Stragglers
are often seen at other subantarctic islands in the New Zealand region
and some make it to the New Zealand mainland, usually to moult.
One of the largest of the crested penguins, the erect-crested penguin
stands at approx 50cm and weighs up to 4kg. The parallel, brush-like crests
identify adults of this species, however it is easily confused with the
Fiordland and Snares crested penguins. Key identification features are
the strip of bare skin on the bottom edge of the bill and the crest starting
at the gape of the bill. In both Fiordland and Snares penguins the crest
starts at the base of the top plate of the bill.
Inhabitants of the sun-antarctic oceans, erect-crested penguins breed
in large colonies on rocky coasts, often climbing very steep faces to
breed on rock platforms. Will often breed alongside rockhopper penguins.
The males return to their breeding colonies in September, the females
following two weeks later. Competition for nest sites can be fierce and
fighting is common.
A very simple nest is made, often comprising of just a few stones and
a little mud. Two eggs are laid, the first of which is usually lost. The
second egg is up to 100% the size of the first and is the only one seriously
incubated. The chicks fledge in February and the adults return to sea
for the winter after moulting in March.
Diet and feeding
Little is known of the erect-crested's diet, but it is thought that they
are pelagic feeders, dining on fish and krill near the surface and that
they may travel hundreds of kilometers in search of food.
The population of erect-crested penguins may be decreasing, but the extent
of this and reasons for it are not understood. Most of their breeding
habitats are free of introduced predators so this does not appear to be
a significant factor. Skua and giant petrels will take porly guarded eggs and chicks. More >>
Unfortunately, the only way to view erect-crested penguins is to make
a trip to a sub-antarctic island. A number of cruise ships visit the sub-antarctic region every year, many calling at New Zealand on their way. A few individuals,
mainly juveniles, moult on the Otago coast late in the summer.