The fiordland crested penguin is a medium sized variety of crested penguin. They feature the traditional penguin coloring with black on the back and head with white on the underside of the body and flippers. A series of white streaks are present on the cheek. A small edge of white feathers is present on the wing.
Running back from the beak over the top of the eye and down the back is a short crest of yellow feathers.
Often at the end of the body is a short tail of feathers which are cocked up.
Present at the front of the head is a large, deep orange colored bill. In females the beak tends to not be as deep or heavy as that of a male.
These animals measure up to 55cm (22in) long with a weight of up to 4kg (9lbs). Males tend to be slightly larger than females.
Fiordland crested penguins are similar in appearance to the Snares penguin or erect-crested penguin.
The Fiordland crested penguin is a carnivore. Hunting occurs in the water where they will subsist on fish larvae, fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and krill.
In one study the majority of food brought ashore was squid while in another area it was fish.
— AD —
Breeding takes place on the western and southern coasts of New Zealand’s South Island. Some breeding sites include Stewart and Solander Islands.
Outside of the breeding season individuals have been recorded travelling to the North Island of New Zealand along with journeys to Tasmania and the mainland of Australia.
These animals make their home along the coastline within temperate rainforest, scrub, coastal caves and rocky shorelines.
Breeding season begins in June and occurs at 12 main sites along with a range of smaller breeding sites.
A nest is built in a sheltered area which may include a cave, gap in the rocks or under tree branches.
In to this nest the pair of Fiordland crested penguins will deposit a pair of eggs. Typically only one, the larger egg will hatch. Occasionally the two eggs will hatch but the smaller chick tends to not survive long past hatching. These eggs hatch after a 33 day incubation period.
For the first few weeks of their life the chicks are cared for by the male while the female is feeding at sea. Once she returns they will begin to take turns hunting and caring for the young.
Older chicks spend their days together in a creche.
By November the chicks are ready to leave their nest and become fledged. At 75 days old they undergo a molt and are ready to go out to sea.
They will breed for the first time at five years old.
They create a range of calls including a braying, trumpeting, hiss, growl or a high-pitched contact call.
After the breeding season the Fiordland crested penguin will spend 60-80 days at sea while they gain extra weight for the upcoming moult. This may lead them to add up to 2kg (4.4lbs).
During the molt they will spend their entire time on land. All of their feathers are lost at the same time meaning they are not waterproof for this period.
These animals are primarily active at night.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the Fiordland crested penguin include the Hooker’s sea lion while they are at sea and weka while on land. Introduced species such as dogs, cats, stoats, common brushtail possum and ferrets also pose a threat to the Fiordland crested penguin.
Stoats are thought to be the biggest threat to their survival. Introduced animals are able to wipe out entire colonies while they are confined to land during their annual molt.
They must also compete against local fisheries to find food. Bycatch in fisheries is another potential threat posed by this.
Occasionally humans will disturb their nest site. Another small threat is vehicle strike.
In the Maori language of New Zealand these birds are referred to as tawaki.
They are named for the Fiordland region of New Zealand where they live.
Occasionally a Fiordland crested penguin is spotted with barnacles growing on its tail which indicates they are at sea for long periods.
Francesco Veronesi from Italy, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright. The Animal Facts
Morcombe, M., 2003. Field Guide To Australian Birds. Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub.
BirdLife International. 2020. Eudyptes pachyrhynchus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T22697776A182279725. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T22697776A182279725.en. Downloaded on 08 April 2021.
Ellenberg, U. 2013 [updated 2017]. Fiordland crested penguin. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
Doc.govt.nz. 2021. Fiordland crested penguin/tawaki. [online] Available at: <https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/penguins/fiordland-crested-penguin-tawaki/> [Accessed 9 April 2021].
Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. Fiordland penguin | bird. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/Fiordland-penguin> [Accessed 9 April 2021].
Seaworld.org. 2021. Fiordland Crested Penguin Facts and Information | SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. [online] Available at: <https://seaworld.org/animals/facts/birds/fiordland-crested-penguin/> [Accessed 9 April 2021].
Braswell, T. 2001. “Eudyptes pachyrhynchus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 08, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Eudyptes_pachyrhynchus/
Penguins International. 2021. Fiordland Penguins. [online] Available at: <https://www.penguinsinternational.org/fiordland-penguins/> [Accessed 9 April 2021].
Copyright The Animal Facts 2023