I thought I would share two photos of the Yellow-eyed Penguin. During my New Zealand cruise, I selected an excursion out to see these Penguins on a farm near Dunedin. Let me explain, the penguins are not kept on the farm. The farmer has learned that these little penguins need shade and is working with other farmers to plant trees back on their farms. These penguins do not travel to antarctica but they burrow into the hillside, needing the trees for shade to help them keep cool. These two adults had just returned from feeding out to sea and have full stomachs. They are getting ready to start the molt and need all their energy as each and every feather will be replaced. They come out of the surf and then climb up the hill towards their burrows. At times, they become exhausted and just stop where they are, falling down and sleeping or just standing there until they recover enough to get to their burrow. I also was able to see a juvenile who was now old enough that its parents could go back out to sea to feed. It was standing in the burrow, just waiting for their return. They are an anti-social penguin, in that they may come out of the surf with other penguins but they then separate each going their own way. They will not nest if they can see another penguin.
These penguins are shorter than the penguins we are used to seeing in our zoos and penguin encounters. These only get to 25 inches tall. There are no yellow-eyed penguins in captivity.
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.
The excursion to this particular farmer – he has dug trenches out so that we (people) can go out and see the penguins in their own habitat without disturbing them. With us being in the trench and boards that go above our heads but with a 6 in slit opening for us to see and our camera lenses to peer through. With that, the penguins do mind us, as long as we are quiet and keep our fingers and lenses inside the trench.
The Penguin Place conservation project is a private effort founded in 1985 by Howard McGrouther when he had just eight breeding pairs on the property. To find out more – please go to – http://www.penguinplace.co.nz/conservation-project/