Fast Facts about Blue Penguins
- Blue penguins are the smallest penguins in the world at just 35-43cm tall
- They weigh between 1 and 1.5kg
- The average life span is 6.5 years, but there are some records of penguins living up to 20 years
- Penguins travel 15–75 km at sea each day
- Long-term partnerships are the norm, but ‘divorce’ is not uncommon
- Underwater, penguins can reach speeds of up to 6km/hr but average 2–4km/hr
- Chicks will often return to within a few metres of where they were raised and once settled in an area never move away
- Blue penguins only come ashore under the cover of darkness
- They commonly nest in burrows, rock crevices, caves, nesting boxes, or under buildings
- From June to November penguins come ashore to lay eggs (generally two) and raise young in burrows
- By March they have moulted and returned to the sea.
- The chicks are guarded for the first 2-3 weeks, after which both parents go to sea to keep up the supply of fish
- Adults feed their chicks but never their mate. They take over incubation duties so their mate can go to sea to feed
- Chicks usually fledge 8 weeks after hatching and are independent from then on.
- Blue penguins feed on surface schooling fish, squid and crustaceans.
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.
Blue Penguin Colonies
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
Click on the images below to download or view the PDF brochures and posters.
Blue Penguin Desktop Backgrounds
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.