Introduction to Fiordland Penguin
You may hear the Fiordland Penguin referred to as the Tawaki. This is a species of crested penguins with a remarkable appearance. They are very attractive and that is what often gets them a great deal of attention. They are often mistaken for other species of penguins that look quite similar. They are quite adaptive and seem to do well in a variety of locations.
Fiordland Penguin Description
This is a medium sized penguin, with the traditional black body and white belly. There is a yellow stripe found from the eye down to the neck region. They also feature white stripes on the face. The bill is short and round with an orange coloring. The bill is also very thick. The feet are pink in color and very strong. Above the eyes, they have a crest that is yellow.
They are approximately 24 inches tall and they can weigh between 4.5 and 13 pounds. The males and the females look the same in terms of size and coloring. The younger ones though may not have a bright of coloring as the adults.
Fiordland Penguin Distribution
The area surrounding New Zealand is where you will find this species of penguin. They move into the Fiordland coast and the islands that surround it when they are going to mate. A common place they are found during mating season is Steward Island. They nest in colonies that offer them dense forest in temperate locations. The Fiordland Penguin is migrational and often found in the waters of the Antarctic.
Fiordland Penguin Behavior
This penguin species spend only about 25% of time on the shore. They enjoy the shorelines that offer them rocky areas. They are known to hop and jump in order to get those more secluded areas of their surroundings. The majority of their life is spent in the ocean waters, even in the winter.
Of all penguin species, the Fiordland Penguin is the least social. They do live in colonies but they are much smaller than other species. They also spend more time alone than any other species. This has a great deal to do with the fact that they spend so little of their overall time on land. They are mainly active at night. That is when they are most likely to be searching for food.
They are excellent swimmers and may swim long distances in order to find food if they need to. They have a very good sense of adaption that allows them to do all they can to be able to survive in given conditions. They are curious about their surroundings. Due to where they live, it is rare that they come into contact with humans in the wild.
Fiordland Penguin Feeding
The diet for this species of penguin is diverse and depends on where they live. Approximately 80% of their diet overall though is squid. Those living around the South Islands though consume a great deal of fish and crustaceans and less squid. They tend to dive in shallow depths so they don’t find food that is too deep into the water.
They are opportunistic and will eat large amounts of food when they can. This allows them to store up body fat to survive on during molting, mating season, and when food supplies are scarce. If they can’t find enough food, they risk not being able to survive due to not enough fat for them to live on.
Fiordland Penguin Reproduction
Breeding for the Fiordland Penguin occurs around five years of age. Males spend most of the year alone in the ocean, and then they will go to the breeding site around June or July. They will select a nesting location there. Approximately two weeks later, the females will arrive and mating will occur. The penguins will pair up with the same mate year after year when possible. For new males and females just coming of age to mate, various calls and prancing rituals occur. The males initiate the movements and the females pick who they will mate with.
The nest is built from stones, tress debris, or placed in various burrows they find. They don’t leave their nests out in the open like other penguins species do. The female will lay two eggs in the nest. It takes from four to six weeks of incubation for the young to emerge. Most of the time, only one egg hatches. When both do, the smaller chick will usually die. The parents can’t provide enough food for both of them.
Both parents take on the role of bringing food back to the shore for the young. They take turns guarding the chick while the other is finding food. The chicks will molt around 10 weeks of age and leave the nest. There is a high mortality rate among the chicks. Only a fraction of them will reach the age of maturity.
Photo taken by: Greg Schechter