Little Penguin

Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) have several common names. In Australia they are often referred to as Fairy Penguins due to their small size. In New Zealand they are called Little Blue Penguins or just Blue Penguins owing to their plumage color, the New Zealand Māori call them Korora. In Chile they are known as Pingüino pequeño or Pingüino azul.

They are the smallest species of penguin and breed around the entire coastline of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands as well as southern Australia and Tasmania. Little penguins were also reported from Chile (Isla Chañaral 1996, Playa de Sto. Domingo,San Antonio, 16-March-1997) but it is unknown whether these birds were stragglers. Nevertheless it has been suggested that there might be a yet undiscovered breeding population in the Chilean portion of Patagonia. Recently, the first record of a living Little penguin has been reported from Namibia (Ichaboe Island, April 2005). There are several subspecies but a precise classification of these is still a matter of dispute. The White-Flippered Penguin, sometimes treated as a separate species, is now considered a sub-species.

Typically growing to 15.75 inches (40 centimeters) tall and weighing about 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram), they live year-round in large colonies, with each individual breeding pair forming a burrow in which to raise their chicks (of which two are born at a time). They feed by hunting fish, squid, and other small sea animals, for which they travel and dive quite extensively.

While this penguin is not endangered as a whole, colonies in areas with significant human activity are under some threat from pollution and feral animals.

Little Penguins typically return to their colonies to feed their chicks at dusk. At this time the birds will tend to come ashore in small groups in order to provide some defense against predators which might pick off individuals one by one.

At Phillip Island, to the south-east of Melbourne, a viewing area has been set up to allow tourists to view the nightly “penguin parade”. Lights have been erected to allow visitors to see but NOT photograph the birds interacting in their colony, which they do with a total lack of interest in their spectators. The birds, which most tourists find irresistibly cute, are Victoria’s most popular tourist attraction. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is the New Zealand equivalent to Phillip Island’s penguin parade.

Fairy Penguins at Sea World

There is also a colony of Fairy Penguins at Sea World, on the Gold Coast, in Queensland, Australia.