Fiordland Penguin – Eudyptes pachyrynchus
Eudyptes Genus – Crested penguins
Other names: tawaki (Maori)
Height: 21-23 in.
Weight: 5.5-10.75 lb.
Life expectancy in the wild: Unknown.
Approximated Population: 6,000 – 7,500
Population tendency: Decreasing
IUCN Conservation status: VU
Fiordland penguins belong to the group of crested penguins. Their name comes from the Fiordland region in West New Zealand where they inhabit.
Adults have a dark blue or black plumage at the back. They have very thick reddish beak and deep red eye irises. It’s easy to differentiate them from other crested species, just by looking their plumage pattern at their head; a stripe of yellow feathers start from the base of the beak, and it continues to the head, revealing the loose feathers that look like long and bushy yellow eyebrows. Another way to identify them is by observing the few white feathers they have on their cheeks. Their legs have a light pink color with contrasting black soles.
They have a peculiar gait; they put their neck and head forward while keeping their balance by holding their flippers attached to their body.
Fiordland chicks have gray plumage instead of black, and they do not have the characteristic yellow feathers in the head or the red beaks that adults do.
Where do they live?
The Fiordland region on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, the Stewart Island and the Solander Islands are also places where the main colonies of these penguins are.
Unlike other species, their habitat is not formed by snow and icebergs but by trees, dense vegetation, caves and rocky areas. In this region of New Zealand, rains are very common as the result of the humidity in the environment and the warm temperatures.
They communicate both verbally and nonverbally during contact with their partner.
Skills and Behavior
Fiordland penguins are shy with humans, and if anyone comes close to them, they typically interrupt their activities and go away. Migrations are common from April to June, but they stay in the region during the breeding period. Although they are social, they like to spend some time alone. During the day, they shelter in their nesting spots or shady places, and they carry out their activities at night.
They communicate both verbally and nonverbally during contact with their partner; in courtship, mating, nest building and interaction between them, it’s possible to notice changes in their way of expressing themselves.
During the breeding season, they become more aggressive. Males fight among themselves to defend the nest and to find a partner. Females, in turn, become violent if they discover another female mating with his partner.
Adults perform pre-Molting trips that last from 60 to 90 days, to consume the food that will keep them alive during the time they have to stay on land. In February, they have to wait on land for three long weeks until the molting process is complete; at the end of which they will have lost 50% of their body mass.
What do they eat?
Fiordland penguins stay close to the coast to catch crustaceans, squid, and small fish. Further details of their hunting techniques are still unknown.
Incubation period: 31 to 35 days.
Normal clutch: Two eggs.
Males arrive before females at nesting colonies. They can keep the same partner of previous years or get a new one. Fights and aggressive behavior are common during this season while everybody is looking for a partner.
The first egg is 20% smaller than the second.
Both parents are responsible for incubating the eggs and take turns to do it. The first egg is 20% smaller than the second, but regardless this, they do not discard any egg or chick as other penguin species do; they incubate both eggs, and once they hatch, they try to keep them both hatchlings alive.
Both eggs have the same chance of survival, but the weaker and smaller egg is more likely the one who dies. After 20 days, chicks gather in nurseries and are fed by their parents.
The molting period on young penguins begin after 75 days, and after that, they start their independent life.
Probably the main natural predator of Fiordland penguins is the Weka bird (Gallirallus australis), which cause up to 38% mortality of eggs and 20% of chicks. Sea lions, big fish, stoats, rats, dogs, and cats are also predators, especially during the molting season when they cannot flee to the ocean. Their primary threats are commercial squid fishing that reduces their food availability and human marine activities.
Fiordland penguin range map
Salomon, David. Penguin-pedia, photographs and facts from one man’s search for the penguins pf the world. Brown Books. 2011.
Garcia Borboroglu, Pablo. Penguins: Natural History and Conservation. University of Washington Press, 2015.
BioExpedition Publishing © 2017.