Saturday, 15 November 2008

Snares crested & Little blue penguins

The last of the Eudyptes penguins, the Snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus), appears here today, as well as the smallest of the spheniscids, the little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor).

Snares crested penguin
Eudyptes robustus Oliver, 1953

Adult Snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus)

Distribution: breeds only on Snares Island (48oS 166oE) in New Zealand; non-breeding range to South Island, Chatham, Stewart, Solander and Antipodes Islands.

Size: 51-61 cm (20-24”); males up to 4.3 kg (9½ lb); females to 3.4 kg (7½ lb).

Habitat: waters around Snares Island; breeds on flat, muddy areas or gentle rock slopes, up to 600 m (1/3 mile) inland and 70 m (230’) above sea level.

Diet: mainly krill, cephalopods (squid) and fish.

Etymology: Eudyptes = “good diver” in Greek; robustus = “strong” or “robust” in Latin, probably referring to its build or bill.

Immature Snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus)

Little blue penguin
Eudyptula minor (Forster, 1781)

Also known as the fairy penguin, due to its small size.

Adult little blue penguins (Eudyptula minor) of two races; E. m. albosignata (above) from New Zealand; and E. m. novaehollandiae (below) from southern Australia

Distribution: coastal Australia and New Zealand from 32-47oS.

Size: 40-45 cm (16½-17”); the smallest of all penguins; subspecies differ in size with E. m. iredalei being the smallest and E. m. albosignata being the largest; weight is up to 1.4 kg (3 lb 5 oz) in males and up to 1.3 kg (2 lb 14 oz) in females.

Habitat: temperate seas; breeds in sandy areas for burrowing, and caves.

Diet: mostly fish and small cephalopods (squid), but also crustaceans such as krill.

Etymology: Eudyptula = “small Eudyptes” in Latinised Greek; minor = “lesser”.

Subspecies: E. m. minor = Southland, Stewart Island and Westland (New Zealand); E. m. novaehollandiae = southern Australia; E. m. iredalei = north of North Island to East Cape; E. m. variabilis = North Island to Montunau Island; E. m. albosignata = Banks Peninsula and Montunau Island; E. m. chathamensis = Chatham Island.

All subspecies are very similar except E. m. albosignata (white-flippered penguin), which has more white on its flippers than the other races.

Little blue penguin chick (Eudyptula minor)

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