Photo by Lin Padgham
Snares Penguin – Eudyptes robustus
Eudyptes Genus – Crested penguins
Other names: Snares crested penguin, Snares Islands Penguin
Height: 20-22 in.
Weight: 5.75-9.5 lb.
Life expectancy in the wild: 11 years.
Approximated Population: 93,000
Population tendency: Stable
IUCN Conservation status: VU
Snares Penguins are very similar to the Fiordland species, but the featherless area at the beginning of their beaks can help to identify them.
They have a black head, back, wings and tail while from the throat to the chest they have white feathers. The internal part of their flippers is between black and pink. Their light pink legs contrast with their strong black claws. They have a crest distributed very similar to the Fiordland’s, but we can differentiate them based on their beak. Snares penguins also have a red, short and thick beak, like its close relative, but on the base of it, they have a pink, featherless area that marks the difference between the two species.
The small hatchlings have brown plumage but still lack the flashy crest and the details on their beaks.
Where do they live?
Snares penguins inhabit rocky coasts surrounded by extensive vegetation and a warm environment. They are endemic to the Snares Islands in New Zealand, although some lost or disoriented individuals reach as far as Tasmania and South Australia.
They have the ability to dive to a depth of 85 ft when seeking prey.
Skills and Behavior
They have the ability to dive to a depth of 85 ft when seeking prey, although the deepest dive registered has been 394 ft.
While they are the less aggressive species of all crested penguins, during breeding season they often show aggressive behavior having little fights using their beaks. They gather in colonies ranging from 50 to 500 pairs where all this happens.
The sexual behavior usually involves flapping, inflating the chest, nodding, and vocalizations with their beaks towards the sky. They also have corporal expressions such as “crossing necks” in which they look like couples hugging.
Grooming is a way to make social links between them while maintaining their feathers with an oily substance excreted by a gland at the base of the tail.
The pre-molting trips last about 70 days, the time needed to replenish all the energy and weight loss during reproduction.
Molting starts in late March or early April and lasts 24 to 30 days. By then they have lost half of the extra weight gained during the pre-molting trip.
Non-breeding penguins begin molting weeks before breeders.
What do they eat?
Adults feed on krill, squid and about 18% of small fish.
They feed chicks with 60% krill and 40% fish and squid.
They hunt very close to the coast in groups of up to 20 members, although there are seasons where they move further away from the coast, looking for a different kind of prey. The maximum registered immersion has been 394 ft deep.
In September, males arrive a week earlier than females at nesting colonies. By the end of that month, the female lays the first egg and later a second, which is 30% larger than the first one.
Snares penguins build nests with twigs, stones, and mud. Others prefer to protect their eggs in natural cavities of rocks, land crevices or even under broken branches.
The larger second egg is the one that usually survives.
Incubation is a responsibility of both parents taking turns during the first ten days. Afterward the female keeps the eggs safe for 12 more days and then the male is responsible for ending the process.
The larger second egg is the one that usually survives because it gets most of the attention from the parents.
Parents gather chicks at nurseries, and they can recognize them later among hundreds of other individuals. Once identified, they get close to regurgitate the food they catch and feed only their offspring.
At 75 days old, the young chicks travel for the first time to the ocean with their parents to start an independent life.
The natural predators of the adult Snares penguins are the sea lions and the leopard seals although they are not as frequent in the zone they live while gulls and petrels are the main predators of the eggs and newborns.
Commercial fishing, ocean changes in temperature and acidification, oil spills and the introduction of new species to their habitat are the major threats these penguins face.
Snares penguin range map
Salomon, David. Penguin-pedia, photographs and facts from one man’s search for the penguins pf the world. Brown Books. 2011.
Garcia Borboroglu, Pablo. Penguins: Natural History and Conservation. University of Washington Press, 2015.
BioExpedition Publishing © 2017.