The Snares crested penguin stands about 40cm and weighs around 3 kilograms.
It is very similar in appearance to the Fiordland crested penguin
with which it can be easily confused, particularly at sea. The head,
throat and upper parts are black and under parts 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. The bill is very robust,
particularly in the male, and the prominent area of bare skin at its
base helps distinguish the Snares from the Fiordland penguin. The
Snares may have some white cheek feathers, however this occurs only
in a few individuals and they do not form lines as in the Fiordland
penguin. The eye is red, but not not as bright as seen in the Rockhopper.
Sexes alike, but male is slightly larger and with a heavier bill.
Fledglings have pale chins and short crests.
The Snares crested penguin only breeds on the small (total of 341
ha) Snares Islands. The islands are mostly covered in mostly covered
in a forest of the tree daisies Olearia lyalli and Brachyglottis stewartiae.
The penguins nest in dense colonies of up to 1500 pairs, usually with
part of the colony under vegetation. Snares penguins can often be
seen roosting on branches overhanging the colony, sometimes up to
2m off the ground.The population is currently (2000 breeding season)
estimated to be 30,000 breeding pairs. Read an account of the last
The males return to the breeding sites in August and construct a mound
and bowl from earth, sticks, stones and lined with vegetation. The
female follows shortly after and two eggs are laid in late September
to early October, the larger "B" egg being laid 4.5 days
after the smaller "A" egg. As with most crested penguins,
both chicks are seldom raised successfully, many pairs lose an egg
during incubation and should two eggs hatch, one chick usually dies
before the end of the guard stage. About 10 days after egg laying
the males go to sea for around 12 days, leaving the females to incubate
the eggs. At this point the males have been ashore and fasting for
six weeks. Once they return, the females break their 39 day fast and
to go to sea for 10 days. Once the chicks hatch, the male continues
to incubate and guard the chicks while the female forages and returns
daily to feed the chicks. Once the chicks reach 3 weeks of age both
parents forage and return daily to feed the chicks. At this stage
the chick wanders, creching with other chicks if they are nearby,
but returning to the nest to be fed.The chicks fledge at 11 weeks
and the age of first breeding is thought to be about 6 years. Juveniles
often straggle to the east coast of the South Island, usually to moult.
Snares penguins feed on euphausids (shrimp like crustaceans), cephalapods
(squid and octopus) and fish. Little is known about where Snares penguins
feed, but more reasearch is planned this year. Read about research
into Snares penguin foraging ecology.
Predators of adult Snares Penguins are sea lions and leopard seals.
Their eggs and chicks are hunted by skuas and petrels.