- the noisy penguin
The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is only found
in New Zealand is one of the rarest of our penguins. They live and breed
around the south-east coast of the South island, on Stewart island and
in the sub-antarctic Auckland and Campbell islands. They are known to
Maori as Hoiho.
Standing 65 cm tall and weighing 5 to 6 kg, the yellow-eyed is the fourth
largest of the worlds penguins. The distinguishing feature of the yellow-eyed
penguin is its distinctive yellow eye and bright yellow stripe that runs
through the eye and around the back of the head. Both sexes are alike,
although the male does have slightly larger head and feet.
Juvenile yellow-eyeds look very similar to the adults, but lack the yellow
head band. They gain their adult plumage at one year of age.
Yellow-eyed penguins are forest or shrubland nesting birds, usually preferring
to nest in a secluded site and backed up to a bank, tree or log. Although
they nest in loose "colonies", yellow-eyed penguins do not nest
within sight of each other.
Nest sites are selected in August and normally two eggs are laid in September.
The incubation duties (lasting 39-51 days) are shared by both parents
who may spend several days on the nest at a time. For the first six weeks
after hatching, the chicks are guarded during the day by one parent while
the other is at sea feeding. The foraging adult returns at least daily
to feed the chicks and relieve the partner.
After the chicks are six weeks of age, both parents go to sea to supply
food to their rapidly growing offspring. Chicks usually fledge in mid
February and are totally independent from then on. Chick fledge weights
are generally between 5 and 6 kg.
First breeding occurs at 3-4 years of age and long term partnerships
are formed. Yellow-eyed penguins may live for up to 24 years
Diet and feeding
Yellow-eyed penguins feed on a variety of fish including opal fish, silverside,
sprat, aruhu and red cod. Arrow squid is also important in their diet.
Feeding is usually done near the bottom, at depths of up to 160m and as
far as 50km off shore. Dive times are up to 3.5 minutes.
Predators and threats
The loss of coastal forest has played a part in the decline of the yellow-eyed
penguin on the NZ mainland, but the biggest threat to the survival of
the species is introduced mammalian predators. Wild cats, ferrets and
stoats often kill chicks and take eggs. Adult penguins all too often fall
victim to dogs. More>>
Variations in the productivity of the marine environment can seriously
affect breeding success and adult survival in some "poor" years.
Set nets are also a threat, but little information is available about
the extent of the problem more>>
Population and conservation status
The population of yellow-eyed penguins is estimated to be around 2,000
breeding pairs and is centred on the sub-antarctic Auckland and Campbell
Islands, however around 500 pairs breed on New Zealand's South Island
and another 150 pairs on and around Stewart Island. Variable marine productivity
causes considerable fluctuation in year-to-year numbers of breeding pairs,
however the long-term trend is stable. The species is listed by the NZ
Dept of Conservation as being "Threatened".
There are no yellow-eyed penguins in captivity however there are numerous sites between Oamaru and Campbell Island where yellow-eyeds may be seen in the wild more >>