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Little Penguin

Appearance

The Little Penguin is the world’s smallest penguin standing approximately 33 cm (13in) high. The average weight for a little blue penguin is 1.5 kg (3.3lbs). Their wingspan is 28-35.5cm (11-14in)

The back and head of these penguins is the slate blue which gives them their name. Under the eye this colour is lighter and the underbelly is white. Their beak is black and measures approximately 3-4cms. Their feet are pink and the sole is black. They like all penguins have wings which have specialised into flippers to enable them to swim.

Diet

Little blue penguins are piscivorous and feed on a diet of mainly fish. They will also take squid, crustaceans and krill.

Little penguins eat one-third of their body weight each day.

Range

These penguins inhabit a range from the South of Western Australia across the rest of Southern Australia and up into New South Wales. The Bass Strait and Tasmania is a stronghold for the species.

They are also present around the entirety of the New Zealand Coast and a range of offshore islands. 

Scientific Name

Eudyptula minor

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Height

33cm (13in)

Weight

1.5kg (3.3lbs)

Wingpsan

28-35.5cm (11-14in)

Lifespan

Average - 7 years

Some lived up to 25yrs

Diet

Piscivorous

Habitat

They inhabit sandy beaches, sand dunes, caves and rock crevices. In some circumstances they have been known to reside under man-made structures

Reproduction

Little penguins begin their breeding season around the month of July. They mate for life and return as a pair to the same nesting site each year. On some occasions they will leave their partner if their eggs fail to hatch. To attract a female males will point their head at the sky and shake their flippers.

During September the two work to build a nest. Their nest is dug underground and lined with leaves or other debris. They can also be located in rock crevices or caves.

By October this is ready for 2 eggs to be laid in. The eggs are white or light brown. These take about 37 days to hatch during which time the parents will share the incubation duties. Guarding the chicks and feeding them is also shared after hatching. The parents give the chick’s extraordinary care. It is rare though that both chicks will survive when food is scarce.

The chicks will fledge at 7-9 weeks of age. They will reach sexual maturity at about three years of age.

Behavior

Little penguins hunt out at sea during the day. At night they come back out of the water and return to their burrows to sleep.

They are mainly solitary animals but they come out of the water in small groups to keep them safe from predators.

Their natural predators include gulls, sharks and the New Zealand fur seal. These seals are the suspected cause of a massive drop in penguin numbers on Granite Island. Introduced predators include dogs, cats and foxes.

Their streamlined body means they can swim between 4 and 8.5km/h (6.4-13.7mph). Most penguins only travel 10 to 30 km (6.2-18.6 miles) from home each day but some may travel 100’s of km away.

After breeding the penguins start their moult. They begin this period by fattening up on food. They then begin to replace their feathers, during this time they have grey, fluffy feathers across their body. These are not waterproof and as such they cannot enter the water. By the end of the 3 weeks they may have lost 50% of their body weight.

Quick facts

The little penguin is also known as the fairy, white-flippered penguin or blue penguin.

The little penguin is the smallest of the world’s 18 penguin species.

Many places in Australia have created a tourist attraction by allowing visitors to watch the penguins as they emerge from the water.

Snipers were once deployed to protect little penguins in Sydney from foxes.

Tux the linux mascot was supposedly inspired by a penguin that pecked Linus Torvalds when he holidayed in Australia.

References


BirdLife International 2018. Eudyptula minor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22697805A132603951. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22697805A132603951.en. Downloaded on 21 April 2020.

Backyardbuddies.org.au. 2020. Little Penguin. [online] Available at: <https://www.backyardbuddies.org.au/backyard-buddies/little-penguin> [Accessed 21 April 2020].

Mayntz, M., 2020. Little Penguin Fact Sheet - The Smallest Penguin. [online] The Spruce. Available at: <https://www.thespruce.com/little-penguin-386101> [Accessed 21 April 2020].

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