The most timid of the crested penguins, the Fiordland crested penguin
stands about 40cm and weighs around 4 kilograms. The head, throat
and upperparts are black and underparts are white. The sulphur-yellow
crest starts at the base of the base of the bill, extends over the
eye and droops down the back of the head. Adults often have white
stripes on the cheeks, juveniles have a shorter crest and pale cheeks.
Fiordland crested penguins breed in the rainforests along the rugged
coastline of New Zealand's Fiordland and Stewart Island. They nest
individually, or in loose colonies, close to the coast. Nest sites
are in caves, under overhangs, at the base of trees or in dense vegetation.
The males return to the breeding sites in June (mid winter), usually
to the site of last year's nest. The female follows shortly after
and two eggs are laid in July. The second egg hatches first, while
most first eggs fail to hatch. If both chicks hatch, the smaller first-egg
chick is unable to compete for food and usually dies. For the first
few weeks of life, the chick is guarded by the male and fed by the
female. After this both parents feed the chick and the chick wanders,
creching with other chicks if they are nearby, but returning to the
nest to be fed.Chicks fledge in November, when they are 10 weeks old.
They return to their home colony to breeed at around 5 years of age.
Juveniles often straggle to the east coast of the South Island, usually
Little is known about the diet of the Fiordland crested penguin, but
it is thought that they feed inshore, particularly during the breeding
season. The main prey species reported for Fiordland penguins are
cephalopods (85%, mainly Arrow squid), followed by crustaceans (13%,
primarily Krill) and fish (2%, mainly Red Cod and Hoki). However,
the importance of cephalopods might be exaggerated.
The current status of this penguin is threatened due to its small
population. Current population estimates range between 2,500-3,000
pairs and is thought to have declined since the late 1980s by around
33%. It is under threat from introduced predators including dogs,
cats, stoats and rats.