Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yellow-Eyed Penguins: Endangered in New Zealand

Yellow-Eyed Penguin in New Zealand. Photo by Michaël CATANZARITI.

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin of the New Zealand coastal forests is the rarest of all penguins and an endangered species.

PENGUINS! Who doesn't love penguins?!? They are cute and charming and look like little people marching across the ice. They are stars of numerous childrens' films, dancing and prancing their way into our hearts. They are celebrities in our family. My stepdaughter traveled to Chile for a high school trip and fell in love with penguins, so every year I give her a penguin as a gift.

Sadly, many penguins are also endangered, including the startlingly beautiful Yellow-Eyed Penguin of New Zealand. Yellow-Eyed Penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) have a captivating appearance with a yellow crown of feathers framing their heads, yellow eyes, and reddish-purple bills. They are forest-nesting birds, building their nests against trees and fallen logs, which makes them easy prey to other animals. Sadly, deforestation, habitat encroachment and the introduction of predators has threatened their existence to such an extent that these magnificent creatures are now considered an endangered species according to the IUCN list.

Physical Attributes of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin

Okay, we already know  they are adorable. They're penguins! However, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin has other distinguishing characteristics. The adult yellow-eyed penguin has a distinctive, bright yellow stripe marking its eyes and running to the back of its head and a cap of golden feathers that makes it appear as if the penguin is wearing a golden crown. The royal penguins!

Yellow-Eyed Penguin. Photo by Christian Mehlführer, User:Chmehl.

They all have a slate gray back and white chest and stomach. The penguin's feet are peach-colored. Males have larger feet and a slightly larger head. Its bill is a combination of red and purple. Young Yellow-Eyed Penguins have gray eyes instead of yellow and don't have the yellow line and golden feathers that mark their crown. Baby Yellow-Eyed Penguins, or chicks, are covered with thick, brown feathers. They have a surprisingly long life span of twenty-two years!

Lifestyle of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin can be found on the south islands of the eastern coastline of New Zealand, the Banks Peninsula, Stewart Island and Campbell Island. They spend their days swimming in the warm coastal waters searching for their favorite snacks of red cod, arrow squid, aruhu and opal fish. They are highly-skilled swimmers, holding their breath as long as four minutes and diving to 400 feet. They sometimes travel 20 miles from home in search of their favorite foods.

Eggs and Chicks

Like other penguins, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin forms loose colonies, but they nest in solitude. They build their nests out of twigs and grass at the base of trees, logs, and sand banks. Their breeding season begins in August. In September, females begin to lay their eggs, two at a time, covering them loosely with grass to protect them from heat and storms. The eggs incubate 45 days and hatch in November. At this point, one parent will hunt for food while the other stays with the chicks. The chicks are "fledged," or fed and cared for by their parents until March when they learn to hunt for food on their own.

Why are They Endangered?

It is estimated that there are less than 2000 remaining pairs of Yellow-Eyed Penguins. In addition to falling prey to sharks and seals, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin is also threatened by dogs, cats, ferrets, rats, and coastal deforestation.

In 1987, the Dunedin Conservationists formed the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust to try and save the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguins. Their goal is to control those predators that were introduced to the area, such as cats and dogs, and restore and preserve the coastal forests where the penguins live and breed. They have also purchased land to establish Yellow-Eyed Penguin reserves.


  • "The Yellow-Eyed Penguin." Wildlife of Antarctica. Antarctic Connection. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
  • Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust Home Retrieved April 21, 2010.

In the A to Z Bloggers Challenge P is for Yellow-Eyed Penguins!

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