The Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), sometimes referred to as Hoiho, is a penguin found in New Zealand, on the south-east coast of South Island, Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island/Rakiura, and Auckland and Campbell Islands.
This is a medium-sized penguin with pale yellow eyes. It grows to approximately 65cm and the average weight for an adult is 5-6 kilograms. It has a pale yellow head with black feather shafts. There is a band of bright yellow running from its eyes around the back of the head. The juvenile has a greyer head with no band and the iris is gray.
This penguin usually nests in forest or scrub and feeds mainly on Blue Cod, Red Cod, Opal Fish, sprat and squid.
The current status of this penguin is endangered, with an estimated population of 4,000. It is considered one of the world’s rarest penguin species. The main threats include habitat degradation, introduced predators as well as environmental changes. It is thought to be the most ancient of all living penguins.
In spring 2004, a previously undescribed disease killed off 60% of Yellow-eyed penguin chicks on the Otago peninsula and in North Otago. The disease has been linked to an infection of corynebacterium, a family of bacteria that also causes diphtheria in humans. It has recently been described as diphtheritic stomatitis. However, it seems as if this is just a secondary infection. The primary pathogen remains unknown.
Several mainland colonies have hides and are relatively easily accessible for those wanting to watch the birds come ashore. These include colonies at Oamaru, Moeraki light-house, a number of beaches near Dunedin, and The Catlins.