The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is only found in New
Zealand is one of the rarest of our penguins. They are known to Maori
as Hoiho - the noisy penguin. Standing 65 cm tall and weighing 5 to
6 kg, the yellow-eyed is the fourth largest of the worlds penguins.
The distinguishing feature of the yellow-eyed penguin is its distinctive
yellow eye and bright yellow stripe that runs through the eye and
around the back of the head. Both sexes are alike, although the male
does have slightly larger head and feet. Juvenile yellow-eyeds look
very similar to the adults, but lack the yellow head band. They gain
their adult plumage at one year of age.
Yellow-eyed penguins are forest or shrubland nesting birds, usually
preferring to nest in a secluded site and backed up to a bank, tree
or log. Although they nest in loose "colonies", yellow-eyed
penguins do not nest within sight of each other. They live and breed
around the south-east coast of the South island, on Stewart island
and in the sub-antarctic Auckland and Campbell islands.
Nest sites are selected in August and normally two eggs are laid in
September. The incubation duties (lasting 39-51 days) are shared by
both parents who may spend several days on the nest at a time. For
the first six weeks after hatching, the chicks are guarded during
the day by one parent while the other is at sea feeding. The foraging
adult returns at least daily to feed the chicks and relieve the partner.After
the chicks are six weeks of age, both parents go to sea to supply
food to their rapidly growing offspring. Chicks usually fledge in
mid February and are totally independent from then on. Chick fledge
weights are generally between 5 and 6 kg.First breeding occurs at
3-4 years of age and long term partnerships are formed. Yellow-eyed
penguins may live for up to 24 years.
Yellow-eyed penguins feed on a variety of fish including opal fish,
silverside, sprat, aruhu and red cod. Arrow squid is also important
in their diet. Feeding is usually done near the bottom, at depths
of up to 160m and as far as 50km off shore. Dive times are up to 3.5
In spring 2004, a previously undescribed disease killed off 60% of
Yellow-eyed Penguin chicks on the Otago peninsula and in North Otago.
The disease has been linked to an infection of Corynebacterium, a
genus of bacteria that also causes diphtheria in humans. It has recently
been described as diphtheritic stomatitis. The loss of coastal forest
has played a part in the decline of the yellow-eyed penguin on the
NZ mainland, but the biggest threat to the survival of the species
is introduced mammalian predators. Wild cats, ferrets and stoats often
kill chicks and take eggs. Adult penguins all too often fall victim