Fast Facts about Blue Penguins

A pair of blue penguins nesting

Critical times of the year

Blue penguins can be found on West Coast beaches for much of the year, whether they are breeding or moulting.

Critical times of the year

Blue Penguin Colonies

Look for penguin prints like these on your beach

Look for penguin prints like these on your beach

On the West Coast blue penguin colonies can be found near towns, and on our most remote beaches. Colonies are small, many have less than five pairs, the largest have 20-40 pairs.

Penguins commonly nest in dunes, coastal forest, farmland and rocky areas up to 200m inland. Colonies can be found up to 500m upstream from river mouths – well within common whitebaiting zones.

They nest in burrows, caves, rocky crevices, tree roots, and nesting boxes. It is common to see penguins nesting under baches and houses close to the sea.

Blue penguins can be found walking across the beach, between their nest and the sea, in the hour after dusk and, just before dawn. They are known to cross the road to get to their burrows so are very vulnerable to fast moving traffic.

Blue Penguin Threats

In areas where blue penguins cross roads at night to reach their burrows, traffic is a major problem. In the last five years over one hundred penguins have been killed by vehicles on West Coast roads. Penguins are particularly vulnerable on State Highway 6, between Punakaiki and Fox River, where the road is very close to the beach.

Introduced predators like dogs, cats, and stoats are threats. The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust does predator trapping in areas with known penguin colonies. Cattle, and other stock, can also trample burrows.

Dogs are a major problem. Even small mild mannered dogs can harass and kill or maim penguins. In 2007, a penguin colony at Camerons was almost wiped out by one dog over a period of weeks.

When walking your dog – keep your dog under direct control at all times, either on a leash or under voice control. Do not allow your dog to roam in the dunes, scrub and costal forests above the high tide mark. If walking after dusk, when penguins travel between the sea and their burrows, keep your dog extra close.

Coastal development is also a threat, as is loss of habitat through erosion. This is particularly noticeable in colonies south of Greymouth, at Paroa, and Camerons Beach.

At sea, a lack of food can lead to starvation. Wild weather can also prevent the penguins returning to land to feed mates and chicks.

What dog owners should know:
Under the Conservation Act 1987 if your dog attacks and kills any protected wildlife you as the dog owner could, on conviction, face up to 12 months imprisonment and / or a $10,000 maximum fine, and the Court could also order that your dog be destroyed.
Under the Dog Control Act 1996 if your dog attacks any protected wildlife you as the dog owner could, on conviction, face a maximum fine of $3,000. And if your dog kills any wildlife or causes such injury that it is necessary to destroy the wildlife to terminate its suffering then you could, on conviction, face up to 3 years imprisonment, and / or a maximum fine of $20,000. The Court could also order that your dog be destroyed.


Blue Penguin Information PDFs

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Blue Penguin Desktop Backgrounds

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More Blue Penguin information

Birding West Coast – Birdwatching information and tours on the West Coast of New Zealand.
New Zealand Penguins – Information on the penguin species in New Zealand, their status, conservation, where to view them, penguin facts, penguin events, research, news, webcams and games.
The Ornithological Society of New Zealand – Fostering the Study, Knowledge and Enjoyment of Birds.
New Zealand Birds Online – Searchable encyclopaedia of New Zealand birds.