Rockhopper Penguin Fact File
Rockhopper penguins are most noticeable due to the crest of black feathers on top of their head and the yellow eyebrows. These yellow eyebrows end with a plume of yellow feathers.
The underside is white while the back is slate-grey. This slate-grey coloration runs across the head and the top of the wings.
Their eyes are red and the beak is bright orange.
Their feet are pink. Between each toe is webbing which assists with swimming. These toes end with sharp claws which allow them to hold on to rocks.
They are the smallest of the crested penguins. On average they measure 50cm (19.5in) tall and weigh 2.5kg (5.5lbs).
The rockhopper penguin is a carnivore. Their diet includes a range of aquatic animals such as fish, crabs, krill and squid.
Feeding takes place in the water.
Southern rockhopper penguins range across much of the southern hemisphere. They make their home in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), French Southern Territories, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, New Zealand, South Africa.
They make their home on the rocky shorelines of islands on the southern coastline. Nesting occurs in grassy tussocks.
Much of their time is spent in the sea where they will feed.
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Breeding occurs from early spring to late summer depending on the colonies location. Nesting begins soon after the sea ice melts and allows them to access land.
A pair will engage in a short courtship to create a new pairing or reinforce their bond with a previous partner. This include caressing, bowing and billing among other rituals.
They will form a nest out of stones, grass and bones in to which they deposit two eggs. Pairs share incubation duties. One will care for the eggs while the other goes out to sea to find food. Each feeding trip may last 7-17 days.
Only the strongest chick will survive due to the break between feeds. Often this is the chick from the second egg laid and this chick normally hatches before the other egg.
Parents brood the chick for three weeks following which it is moved in to a crèche with the rest of the chicks from the colony. Here a number of adult penguins work to protect these chicks while the parents go off to feed.
Penguin chicks face predation from a range of birds such as petrels, skuas and gulls.
Southern rockhopper penguins are flightless and either move across the land or swim.
As their name suggests the southern rockhopper penguin gets around by hopping. They can hop up to 1.8m (6ft) in a single hop. When they go out to see they will hop off a rock and are adapted to survive the battering they receive from the waves.
Each year the penguins moult their feathers and get new ones. During this period they are not waterproof and must remain on land. Before this they will increase their food intake as they cannot swim during. Depending on food availability this process may be brought forward or delayed. It is usually complete by mid-May.
Predators and Threats
They face predation from a number of species such as leopard seals, fur seals and killer whales.
Humans pose a threat to their survival through habitat loss, overfishing removing their food source, pollution and disturbances. Invasive species and the introduction of diseases also decrease their population.
All 18 penguin species have been protected from hunting and egg collection.
The population of rockhopper penguins is estimated to have declined by 30 percent over a 30 year period.
Rockhopper penguins are the smallest of the erect-crested penguin species.
The rockhopper penguin is divided in to three species by some scientists, two by others and is considered one species by some. Further study is required to help form a consensus.
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