Archives For penguins

Unique to New Zealand, the hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, is one of the world’s rarest penguin, so it’s exciting to see that chicks are on their way!

Continue Reading...

By Wayne Beggs, Biodiversity Ranger in Akaroa.

The yellow-eyed penguin work happening at Banks Peninsula in Canterbury is a real team effort!

Juvenile yellow-eyed-penguin at Banks Peninsula.

Juvenile yellow-eyed-penguin at Banks Peninsula

We’re fortunate to have some passionate farmers, Mark Armstrong and Francis Helps, who love the local wildlife and who have been the driving force behind protecting the penguins on Banks Peninsula. They had grown up with penguins and were used to seeing them around and they became very concerned when numbers started to seriously decline in the nineties.

Ranger Wayne Beggs and local vet Susan Shannon micro-chipping penguins.

Ranger Wayne Beggs and local vet Susan Shannon micro-chipping penguins

Mark and Francis didn’t muck around and bought their own predator traps to try and control the ferrets, stoats and feral cats that were decimating the local little blue and yellow-eyed penguin colonies.

Mark and Francis soon realised that they needed some help and sought support from the local DOC rangers. DOC ranger Robin Burleigh stepped in and added additional trap lines as well as assisting with monitoring the penguins.

In more recent years Environment Canterbury and the Christchurch City Council have contributed to the trapping and monitoring effort and penguins number have boomed.

Pōhatu is now home to the largest mainland little blue penguin colony (over 1200 pairs last count) in New Zealand and yellow-eyed penguin numbers are starting to creep back up.

A young yellow-eyed penguin in the bushes at Banks Peninsula.

A young yellow-eyed penguin

A local vet, Susan Shannon, has volunteered her time to help with nest searching, mico-chipping penguin fledglings and providing emergency care for injured or sick penguins.

There are also two passionate volunteers, Thomas and Kristina, who really love penguins and put a lot of time and effort into caring for under weight, sick and injured penguins.

It’s thanks to the fantastic effort of all these people and organisations that the penguins on Banks Peninsula have a bright future.

By Lyndon Perriman, Head Ranger at Taiaroa Head/Pukekura

Perfect weather for young albatross chicks

Summer in Dunedin didn’t seem to stay around for long this year, but I wasn’t complaining. Unlike most years, where fly strike leads to the loss of young albatross chicks, we had such mild weather over the hatching period that no fly strike occurred.

Last season we had 26 chicks fledge. We are hopeful that the 24 chicks on the headland this season will all fledge, making a nice round 50 fledglings in two years.

Seven years abroad: Pukekura’s 500th royal albatross returns

After seven years abroad, the 500th royal albatross chick to have hatched at Taiaroa Head/Pukekura, has finally returned home.

Toroa, the 500th royal albatross chick.

Toroa, the 500th royal albatross chick to have hatched at Pukekura

Toroa, and two other chicks, had transmitters attached to their back feathers when they fledged in 2007.

All three survived their long journey at sea for the first year, after which the transmitters stopped sending back signals. It has been a long wait to see if any of these birds would return.

Map of albatross flight path from New Zealand to Chile.

Map of albatross flight path from New Zealand to Chile.

Toroa, the grandson of ‘Grandma’—the colony’s oldest bird (over 60 years old when last seen in 1989)—arrived home to find his own parents breeding again.

The image below shows Toroa with a two-month old sibling. This chick is on its nest close to where Toroa himself was raised.

Toroa sitting in the background with his two-month-old sibling in the foreground

Toroa sitting in the background with his two-month-old sibling in the foreground

Toroa has been hanging around this same area not because of any bond with his sibling or his parent (there is no interaction between parents and returned chicks), but because he, like most males, will nest fairly close to the site where he was raised as a chick. Nest sites tend to be closer to the male hatch site than to the females hatch site.

Scurvy explosion

Cook’s scurvy grass (Lepidium oleraceum) has had a population explosion here at Taiaroa Head/Pukekura.

Cook's scurvy grass has had a population explosion

Cook’s scurvy grass has had a population explosion

Just three plants of this threatened species (once abundant and used by Captain Cook to help reduce the effects of scurvy) were on Pukekura last year.

Now, nestled in among the 2000 pairs of red-billed gulls (that produced plenty of quality fertilizer), this species numbers over 40 large healthy plants.

The ice plant in the background of the image above is South African, and was probably introduced onto the headland to help hide the stone and concrete gun emplacements used during the Russian Scare of the late 1880’s.

Interestingly, the ice plant can not tolerate the excreta from gulls and dies back, whereas gull excreta doesn’t affect the native ice plant found in the same area.

Planting for penguins

The Pukekura Trust little penguin colony at Pilots Beach has recently benefited from Air New Zealand Environmental Trust funding.

This allowed several hundred new natives to be planted—mostly by school children—throughout the reserve.

Small native plants nestled in the grass on a hillside. Sea in the background.

New natives have been planted throughout the reserve

You can see part of the little penguin viewing platform in the image above. Here, at dusk, as many as 300 little penguins waddle in from the sea.