Research, including penguins and other threatened seabirds

The West Coast Penguin Trust raises money to conduct research into penguins and threatened seabirds within the region.  Without the work of the Trust we would know very little about the status, or threats, to blue penguins on the West Coast and we are learning more about Fiordland crested penguins and Westland petrels in order to implement practical and appropriate conservation management.

Penguin bill measurement

Te Papa image linkResearch supported by the Trust has investigated breeding biology and breeding success, and quantified threats faced by blue penguins in the Charleston and Okarito areas. 

Current projects include a blue penguin foraging study using GIS technology, pre-predator control monitoring of Fiordland crested penguins in South Westland and a review of the conservation management priorities for Westland petrels.

Recent Research

New breeding records of seabirds at Carnley Harbour (Auckland Islands), Cossack Rock (Campbell Island) and south coast of The Snares Notornis, 2018, Vol. 65: 168-173, Kerry-Jayne Wilson et al, September 2018

Wilson_etal_Nortornis 65_168-173 New breeding records of seabirds, subantarctic islands

Marathon penguins – Reasons and consequences of long-range dispersal in Fiordland penguins / Tawaki during the pre-moult period PLOS One, Thomas Mattern et al inc. Robin Long, August 2018 

Threats and Threat Status of the Westland Petrel Procellaria Westlandica, Marine Ornithology

Threats and Threat Status of the Westland Petrel, Dr Susan Waugh and Kerry-Jayne Wilson, Oct 2017

A review of the biology and ecology and an evaluation of threats to the Westland petrel Procellaria westlandica, by Kerry-Jayne Wilson.

 Westland petrel threats report, June 2016 (Kerry-Jayne Wilson)

Research outputs – blue penguins

Predation by mustelids is not a significant cause of breeding failure of blue penguins on the West Coast, South Island, New Zealand.

 OSNZ penguin abstract 2011

Effect of habitat features on the breeding success of the blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) on the West Coast of New Zealand

 NZ Journal of Zoology abstract July 2011

Conservation of the Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor) on the West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Conservation of the Blue Penguin – (PDF 2.1MB)

Breeding biology and breeding success of the blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island

Breeding biology and breeding success of the blue penguin – (PDF 1.1MB)

Conservation of the Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor) on the West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

West Coast Penguin Poster – (PDF 1.6MB)

Mortality of Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor) on the West Coast, South Island, New Zealand, summary statistics, 2005-2013

 Mortality of blue penguins, summary graphs and statistics 

Abstracts from Oamaru Penguin Symposium, July 2014, published in the NZ Journal of Zoology.  Includes paper from Trust Chair, KJ Wilson, relating to climate change and the impact on Adelie penguins and papers covering Fiordland crested penguins and blue penguins

 NZJoZ publication Oamaru Penguin Symposium 2014 Abstracts

Click here for more on the Trust’s outputs 2005-2010

Blue Penguin Monitoring & Predator Control

Trust Ranger, Reuben Lane, with burrow scope

The Trust monitors long-term population and breeding trends of penguin colonies on the Coast. Detailed investigation is carried out, looking at colony size, breeding pair numbers, fledgling success, and the impact of predators.  West Coast Penguin Trust ranger, Reuben Lane, is responsible for predator control and monitoring of blue penguin populations between Punakaiki and Westport. In conjunction with the Department of Conservation, the Trust has also monitored penguin colonies at Okarito, and the Wanganui River Mouth at HariHari.

See separate page for Fiordland crested penguins / tawaki

Other Trust related research

 The impact of the giant iceberg B09B on population size and breeding success of Adélie penguins in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica: Antarctic Science 2016.  Kerry-Jayne Wilson, Chris S.M. Turney, Christopher J. Fogwill And Estelle Blair

And see short video here: Giant iceberg decimates Adélie penguin colony at Cape Denison

Follow up news and interview: Clarification, interview etc

Climate research study related to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 2013-4 with input by Kerry-Jayne Wilson.

AAE 2013-14 Seabird monitoring report and recommendations (led by Kerry-Jayne Wilson, Dec 2017):

Penguin Research Generally

Penguin research papers and references have been collated for easy access here: Penguin Biology and Conservation Papers

Coalescent Modelling Suggests Recent Secondary-Contact of Cryptic Penguin Species

Stefanie Grosser, Christopher Burridge, Amanda J Peucker, Jonathan M Waters

PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23).  12/2015; 10.1371 0144966

Abstract: Molecular genetic analyses present powerful tools for elucidating demographic and biogeographic histories of taxa. Here we present genetic evidence showing a dynamic history for two cryptic lineages within Eudyptula, the world’s smallest penguin. Specifically, we use a suite of genetic markers to reveal that two congeneric taxa (‘Australia’ and ‘New Zealand’) co-occur in southern New Zealand, with only low levels of hybridization. Coalescent modelling suggests that the Australian little penguin only recently expanded into southern New Zealand. Analyses conducted under time-dependent molecular evolutionary rates lend support to the hypothesis of recent anthropogenic turnover, consistent with shifts detected in several other New Zealand coastal vertebrate taxa. This apparent turnover event highlights the dynamic nature of the region’s coastal ecosystem.

Related news story:

Paper prepared by Kerry-Jayne Wilson (WCPT) and Helen Otley (DOC) following a workshop at the 9th Oamaru Penguin Symposium, 2014:

 Penguin Research Priorities, August 2014 

Paper prepared by Helen Otley (DOC) following a second workshop at the 9th Oamaru Penguin Symposium, 2014:

 Penguin Research Priorities Workshop – Actions, 2014

Other Research 

Low numbers and apparent long-term stability of South Polar Skuas Stercorarius maccormicki at Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica

 Skua Marine Ornithology 2014

 A review of the distribution and size of prion colonies throughout New Zealand, 2016