Posts Tagged ‘Galapagos Penguins’

Endangered Galapagos Penguin Polulations On The Rise

August 4, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that a new study finds that shifting trade winds and ocean currents powered a resurgence of endangered Galapagos Penguins over the past 30 years, according to a new study led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). These changes enlarged a cold pool of water the penguins rely on for food and breeding—an expansion that could continue as the climate changes over the coming decades, according to the study.

A new study compared sea surface temperatures with endangered Galapagos Penguin population counts and found that the penguin population doubled while waters cooled around their nesting islands.

A new study compared sea surface temperatures with endangered Galapagos Penguin population counts and found that the penguin population doubled while waters cooled around their nesting islands.

The Galapagos Islands, a chain of islands 1,000 kilometers west of mainland Ecuador, are home to the only penguins in the Northern Hemisphere. The 48-centimeter tall black and white Galapagos Penguins landed on the endangered species list in 2000 after the population plummeted to only a few hundred individuals and are now considered the rarest penguins in the world.
Most of the penguins live on the archipelago’s westernmost islands, Isabela and Fernandina, where they feed on fish that live in a cold pool of water on the islands’ southwestern coasts. The cold pool is fed by an ocean current, the Equatorial Undercurrent, which flows toward the islands from the west. When the current runs into Isabela and Fernandina, water surges upward, bringing cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface.
New research suggests shifts in wind currents over the past three decades, possibly due to climate change and natural variability, have nudged the Equatorial Undercurrent north. The changing current expanded the nutrient-rich, cold water farther north along the coasts of the two islands, likely bolstering algae and fish numbers in the cold pool. This allowed the penguin population to double over the past 30 years, swelling to more than 1,000 birds by 2014, according to the new study.
Climate change could further shift wind patterns and ocean currents, expanding cold water further north along the coasts of Isabela and Fernandina and driving fish populations higher, according to the new study.
Penguins, as well as other animals like fur seals and marine iguanas that feed and reproduce near the cold waters, may increase in numbers as the northwestern coasts of the islands become more habitable, said the study’s authors. They noted that wind and ocean currents could also return to earlier conditions, leading to a decline in penguin populations.
“The penguins are the innocent bystanders experiencing feast or famine depending on what the Equatorial Undercurrent is doing from year to year,” said Kristopher Karnauskas, a climate scientist who performed the research while at WHOI, and lead author of the new study recently accepted in Geophysical Research Letters, an American Geophysical Union journal.
The new findings could help inform conservation efforts to save the endangered penguins, said the study’s authors. Increasing efforts on the northern coasts of the islands and expanding marine-protected areas north to where the penguins are now feeding and breeding could support population growth, the study’s authors said.
Karnauskas notes that the vast majority of marine organisms will be negatively affected by the rise in ocean temperatures and acidification that are expected to occur across the globe as a result of climate change.
“With climate change, there are a lot of new and increasing stresses on ecosystems, but biology sometimes surprises us,” said Karnauskas. “There might be places—little outposts—where ecosystems might thrive just by coincidence.”  The Galapagos Penguin population tenuously hangs onto the islands that so enthralled Charles Darwin during his visit in 1835. The penguins once numbered around 2,000 individuals, but in the early 1980s a strong El Nino – a time when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are unusually warm – brought their numbers down to less than 500 birds. Dogs, cats and rats introduced to the islands also stymied the penguin population by attacking the birds, disturbing their nests, and introducing new diseases, according to previous research.
Despite these setbacks, the penguins gradually increased in number in the following decades, according to local bird counts. Researchers, interested by the increase in penguins, noted that the birds remained near the coldest stretches of water. Nearly all of the Galapagos Penguins live on the western coasts of Isabela and Fernandina, and two-thirds of them huddled near the coldest waters at the southern tips of the islands, according to previous research. The study’s authors wanted to know whether the growing numbers of penguins were related to local changes in ocean temperature. They combined previously-collected penguin population data from 1982 to 2014 with sea surface temperature data from satellites, ships and buoys for the same time period.
They found that the cold pool, where sea surface temperatures are below 22 degrees Celsius, expanded 35 kilometers farther north than where it was located at the beginning of the study period. In the 1980s the cold water pocket reached only the southern halves of the western coasts of Isabela and Fernandina. By 2014, the cold water pocket extended across the entire western coasts of the islands.
A shift in trade winds and underwater ocean currents likely caused the Galapagos cold pool expansion, propose the authors. Trade winds blow surface ocean waters from the southern side of the equator to the northern side of the equator. As surface waters pile up in the north, the water at the bottom of the pile is squished south, nudging the Equatorial Undercurrent—a cold current that flows roughly 50 meters under the ocean surface—south of the equator. Likely due to a combination of natural variation and human-caused climate change, trade winds west of the Galapagos slackened during the study period, lessening the pressure pushing the Equatorial Undercurrent south, according to the new study. Consequently, the ocean current gradually shifted north, increasing the amount of cold water coming to the Galapagos Islands, according to the study’s authors.
Satellite images showed that this expanded pool of cold water likely encouraged the growth of phytoplankton, according to the new study. This increase in ocean algae attracted fish to the area— the main entrée for Galapagos Penguins, suggest the authors. The largest pulses of cold water reached the islands from July through December, coinciding with the penguins’ breeding season. The bountiful fish helped the birds successfully reproduce and feed their young, according to the new study.
Models indicate trade winds will continue to abate in the future as the climate warms, Karnauskas said. This could cause the undercurrent to continue to move north, expanding the Galapagos cold pool and possibly further raising penguin populations, he said. Other animal populations like the endangered Galapagos fur seal and the marine iguana also may profit from the prolific amount of food in the Galapagos cold pool, according to the study’s authors.
Wind and ocean currents could also possibly return to where they were in the 1980s, compressing the cold pool and possibly leading to a decline in penguins, Karnauskas added.
The new study shows how large-scale changes in the climate can act locally, said Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, and not an author on the new paper.
“While it is important that we focus on the big picture with climate change, it’s really the small scale that matters to the animals and plants that are impacted,” she said.

Why Are Penguins Black & White

May 22, 2014

When I talk about penguins at public schools one of the questions young children ask most frequently is why are penguins black and white? There are 18 species of penguins found all over the southern hemisphere, and some are cold weather birds like Emperor’s or Adelie’s, while others are warm weather penguins living in southern Africa and Australia, with others in climates in between.   Yet all penguins bodies are basically black in the back and white in the front.  So, why are there so many different types and sizes of penguins, who live in virtually every far flung corner of the southern hemisphere,  yet fundamentally all have the same coloring?  This constant primarily has to do with how penguins make a living, which is in the sea.  But, being in the sea also means being a link in the marine food chain,  and it is in the water where  all penguins are most vulnerable.  That said, nature adapts and improvises, and over countless generations penguins have taken on their signature black and white coloring to protect themselves from potential predators as well as enable them to be stealthy hunters.  But, why black and white you ask?


This adaptation is a type of camouflaging called counter-shading, which makes it harder for both their predators as well as their prey to see them from all sorts of angles.  When penguins are in the water, their white chests camouflage them from being seen from below against the lighter sky coming through the waters surface. From above, their black backs help them blend in with the darker, deeper ocean waters below them.  In the ocean, penguins’ really do need this natural camouflage from multiple predators that include seals, sea lions, and killer whales.  So, now ya know.

Penguin Sweaters: To Knit or Not To Knit?

April 28, 2014

With World Penguin Day in the rear view mirror, conservation organizations are working 24 / 7 to raise awareness of the threats facing the world’s 17 species of penguin. We’re doing our part at Penguin Place by helping you understand the cutest penguin activism controversy ever, which has consumed — one might even say snuggled — the Internet more than a few times in recent years.  Whether or not it is a good idea to knit a sweater for a penguin in distress.

1. Wait, what? Why do penguins need sweaters? I thought they were threatened by the earth getting too hot!

Penguins face a lot of threats. Global warming is definitely one — according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 12 of the 17 species of penguins are threatened by climate change. But some penguin species are also threatened by pollution, particularly oil spills. When penguins come into contact with oil in the wake of a spill, conservationists put them in sweaters so they don’t try to eat the oil off their feathers before they can be washed off. After they’re washed, the sweaters help keep the penguins warm, and waterproof, until their feathers and natural oils can recover.


2. What type of penguins are we talking about here?

The most famous “sweaters for penguins” campaigns have been for the species of penguins called Little Blue penguins, who live in Australia and New Zealand, and the endangered African penguins who live along the coasts of South Africa.  Here’s what a Little Blue penguin looks like when not covered in oil:


Here’s what they look like when they are:


3. Real talk: does putting penguins in sweaters actually work?

The Penguin Foundation, which exists solely to protect Australia’s little penguin population, certainly thinks it does. They work with the  Tasmanian Conservation Trust on the “Knits for Nature” program, which has actually existed for over a decade. The first public sweaters-for-penguins campaign, after an oil spill in Tasmania in 2002, produced 15,000 sweaters. Some were used immediately, and the rest were put in emergency kits around Tasmania.


4. Isn’t it uncomfortable for the penguin?

Some bird researchers think it is. The organization International Bird Rescue points out that penguins overheat easily, so putting an oil-smothered penguin in a layer of thick wool might not be the best idea. Additionally, traumatized wild penguins might not like the added stress of a human being putting something over their heads and onto their bodies. And if the sweater prevents some of the oil from evaporating off the penguin, it could exacerbate the damage of the spill.

5. Do conservationists still use penguin sweaters?

Yes, but they already have plenty. Between the original stockpile of sweaters, a 2011 campaign (run by a knitting site) that went viral, and the sweaters charities get from random people who hear about penguins needing sweaters, the Knits for Nature campaign has plenty in reserve. You’re welcome to knit a sweater for a penguin if you really want — the pattern is available here.  But if it’s made of the wrong kind of wool, is the wrong size, or is just one sweater too many, the Penguin Foundation will put it on a stuffed penguin to sell as a way to raise awareness about little penguin conservation. That’s what happens to most of the sweaters they receive.


Generally, charities tend to prefer that you donate money rather than goods. The original penguin campaign was an exception, because of the urgent need (and because they couldn’t order them from a factory). But this is a good lesson that the donation you want to make might not be the donation the charity needs.

6. How threatened are little penguins, anyway?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which runs the official Red List of Threatened Species, has the threat level for Little penguins set to its lowest level: Least Concern. This makes them much less threatened than a lot of other penguin species: 15 of 17 species of penguins are at a higher threat level, and 5 of them are officially “endangered,” according to the IUCN.

7. What kind of penguins should I be worried about?

The IUCN lists the African, erect-crested, Galapagos, Northern Rockhopper, and Yellow-eyed penguins as “endangered.” They range in population size from 265,000 Northern Rockhopper breeding pairs to only 1,700 breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins.


8. Do those penguins need sweaters?

It’s debatable, but pollution isn’t the biggest threat facing these species. Most of them are immediately threatened by humans encroaching on and degrading their habitats, and need stronger protections for their foraging and breeding grounds.

Wayward Penguins Of The North

March 10, 2012

Many of us have seen ads where a penguin and polar bear share a bottle of Coke at the North Pole. Of course, we all know this is a crass attempt to use our love of penguins to promote soda, for as we all know penguins don’t occur naturally in anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere except for a few hundred yards above the equator at the northernmost part of the Galapagos Islands.  Other than this, zoos, aquariums and Penguin Place are usually our only chance to encounter these birds without heading South. But, usually is the key word, because penguins been documented to have actually reached northern waters several times in past century, and with the recently escaped Penguin 337  from the Tokyo Sea Life Zoo it appears to have happened again.  Perhaps the most serious attempt to stock our Northern oceans with penguins occurred in the 1930s. In 1934, Norway’s Nature Protection Society released 9 King Penguins into the Baltic.  Gentoo and Macaroni penguins were also released a few years later. The convoluted idea was supposedly to replace the recently extinct Great Auk. At a glance, the Baltic countries might seem like a great place for penguins.  It’s cold, there are fish populations similar to those in the Antarctic for prey, and no natural competitor for the flightless diving bird niche.  However, the challenges are also great.  Unknown land and sea predators and disease would have posed an instant danger to penguins that evolved in a different hemisphere.  Moreover, the population deck was stacked against the Nordic penguins from the beginning.  With  few individuals, chance events could easily wipe out the whole group and low genetic diversity may have taken a toll had they made it past the first few generations. So what happened to these hijacked penguin pioneers?  Sadly, all of the Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins were gone in a year.   Some seem to have fallen prey to fishing nets, others to native predators.  The King Penguins survived much longer.  Some even reared chicks successfully, as young birds were sighted (and in one case eaten) several times years after the initial release.  Hatching eggs successfully must have required “resetting” the breeding cycle, as in the wild King Penguins tune their egg laying and chick rearing to the seasons.  They lay their eggs in the Southern Hemisphere Spring (which corresponds to the Northern Hemisphere Fall), incubate them for nearly two months, and tend to the hatchling for nearly a year until it is fully fledged.  If the Norwegian penguins tried to lay their eggs at the “normal” time, they would end up hatching in the dead of the Northern Hemisphere winter to disastrous effect.  Zoo penguins are usually able to make to switch to the Northern Calender though, and it’s quite common for penguins to breed successfully in outdoor zoos in the US and Europe.  Sadly, at least one of the released penguins was shot by locals. I’ve heard two different explanations in popular accounts of this incident – one that the shooter found the penguin in molt,  thought it was very sick, and put it down to be humane, and the other that the shooter suspected the penguin was a demon of all things.  Whichever the true reason (or perhaps these were two separate incidents), it shows a poor understanding of penguin ecology.  A molted penguin is indeed usually not very happy, but it will grow its feathers back quickly and isn’t the slightest bit infernal, and definitely not demonic. On July 18, 2002 a boat fishing off of Noyes Island, Alaska, hauled in a penguin with a net.  This fellow turned out to be a Humboldt Penguin, a native of Peru and Chile.  The penguin was angry by firsthand accounts, and allegedly took about half an hour to calm down enough that it could be grabbed and tossed back into the sea.   Biologists A.N. Van Buren and P. Dee Boersma wrote an article reviewing this incident and other cases of loose penguins in the Northern Hemisphere.

Angry Humboldt penguin picked up by fishing boat in Alaska

They hypothesize that over evolutionary time, the big barrier keeping penguins restricted to the Southern appears to have been temperature.  As the cases above demonstrate, at least some species of penguins can survive and even propagate in the North. But to get there, they need to cross the greatest of barriers – the equator.  The waters here are not penguin-friendly, with sea surface temperatures reaching above 30 degrees C.  At this heat, penguins have trouble shedding excess body heat because the layers of fat and feathers that protect them in cold water trap too much heat in.  It’s likely most penguins would not be able to survive  even a few days under such conditions.  Furthermore, currents may play a role.  It’s fairly easy for penguins to end up far North of their normal geographical range (often unintentionally) by “riding” the Humboldt current up the west coast of South America.  But this free ride stops near the equator.  Think back to the Age of Sail, with ships stuck for weeks in the doldrums.  This is why penguins never made it farther north than the Galápagos.   So, how did our newsworthy Alaskan penguin get there?  Van Buren and Dee Boersma suggest the animal may have hitched a ride unintentionally on a north-bound boat, or more likely, been picked up for fun by sailors and then later discarded.  They even hypothesize this penguin could have been in Alaskan waters for several years, as the same species was spotted around Vancouver Island, Canada in 1978 and near Washington in the 1980s.  And since the bird was tossed back, for all we know it is still prowling its new territory right to this very day.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Penguins

April 26, 2011

Since today is International Penguin Day we at Penguin Place thought we’d put out a simple, fun and sort of complete guide to the wonderful world of penguins courtesy of the wonderful Kidzone Penguin Facts Pages.

Penguins are birds with black and white feathers and a funny waddle.  But unlike most birds, penguins are not able to fly — in the air that is.  Penguins spend as much as 75% of their time underwater, searching for food in the ocean.  When they are in the water, they dive and flap their wings.  It looks just like they are flying!

Penguins are shaped like a torpedo.  Their body is built for the most efficient swimming with their average speed in the water being about 15 miles per hour.
Airborne Penguins
The only time penguins are airborn is when they leap out of the water.  Penguins will often do this to get a gulp of air before diving back down for fish.  Penguins cannot breathe underwater, though they are able to hold their breath for a long time.  They also use their ability to leap out of the water to get from the ocean onto land if there are cliffs or ice flows to deal with.
Penguins spend a lot of time dealing with temperature.  They are warm blooded, just like people with a normal body temperature of about 100 degrees F. So how do they stay warm in the cold places they live and in the icy cold waters? Just like whales, penguins have a layer of fat under their skin called “blubber”.  Overtop of this they are covered with fluffy “down” feathers and overtop of those they have their outer feathers which overlap to seal in warmth.  Penguins rub oil from a gland onto their feathers to help make them waterproof and windproof.
Dinner Time
Penguins eat seafood.  Their main diet is fish, though they’ll also eat squid, small shrimplike animals called “krill” (see photo to the right) and crustaceans. If you look closely at a penguin’s bill you’ll notice a hook at the end, perfect for grabbing dinner.  They also have backward facing bristles on their tongues that helps slippery seafood from getting away. Penguins don’t live near freshwater — at least none that isn’t frozen.  Instead they drink salt water.  They have a special gland in their bodies that takes the salt out of the water they drink and pushes it out of grooves in their bill.  A handy in-house filtration system!
Just a Boy and a Girl…
During the mating season penguins head for special nesting areas on the shore.  The area where penguins mate, nest and raise their chicks is called a “rookery”. When penguins are ready to mate, the male stands with his back arched and wings stretched.  He makes a loud call and struts about to attract a female. When the penguins find a mate, they bond with each other by touching necks and slapping each other on the back with their flippers.  They also “sing” to each other so they learn to recognize each other’s voices. Once a penguin finds a mate, they usually stay together for years — for as long as they have chicks.
Penguins don’t jump, they BOUNCE!
Penguins don’t live in the best habitats for finding nesting material, so they have to make do with what they can find. Rockhopper penguins build their nests on steep rocky areas.  To get there, they hold both feet together and bounce from ledge to ledge (imagine Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger with wings and you’ve got the idea).  These birds can bounce up to 5 feet! Magellanic penguins dig burrows under the ground to form huge “cities” similar to gophers. Adelies and chinstrap penguins use rocks to build their nests.  The perfect rock is a rare commodity for these birds.  They’ll often fight over or steal each other’s stones!

Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins

Penguin Chicks
As soon as the egg is laid (penguins lay one or two eggs at a time), the female dashes out for dinner, leaving the male to watch the nest. When the female returns (it can take up to two weeks for her to come back) it’s the male’s turn to head out for food, leaving the female with the egg. When the chick hatches, it immediately starts calling so that its parents will learn to recognize its voice.
Penguin Predators
Penguins are a food source for a number of marine mammals, especially leopard seals.  These seals hide under ice flows and wait for their prey.  Other marine mammal predators are sea lions and orcas. The penguins aren’t without protection though.  Their white bellies blend with the snow and sunlight making it difficult for an underwater predator to see them.  Penguins are also eaten by a number of birds — for example, the Australian sea eagle and the Skua.  The penguins black backs blend against the dark ocean water, making it more difficult to spot them from above. Penguins also have a number of on-land predators like ferrets, cats, snakes, lizards, foxes and rats.
Playful Penguin Pastimes
Between staying warm, raising chicks, finding food and avoiding predators, a penguin’s life may not sound like much fun.  But penguins have some playful pastimes — many of which are surprisingly similar to human hobbies!
Tobogganing:  Penguins lie on their belly and toboggan through the ice and snow.  This helps them move quickly.
Surfing:  Penguins are often seen surfing through the waves onto land.
Penguin Habitat
There are 17 species of penguin, each slightly different.  Some of the species have nicknames which can cause people to think there are more than 17 species (for example the Little penguin is also known as the Blue penguin).All of the species live in the Southern hemisphere.  Many live at the South Pole on Antarctica.  But some don’t live in such cold places.  They are found on the coasts of South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Galapagos Islands.  The Emperor penguin is the only species that breeds and nests in Antarctica through the frigid winter.
Adelie Penguins
Adelie penguins are the smallest of the Antarctic penguins.  One way to distinguish them from the other penguins is by their all black head and the white ring around their eye. Adelie penguins were named after the wife of a French explorer in the 1830s.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh 8 or 9 pounds.  Their diet is mainly fish.
Adelies build their nests of stones on the rocky beaches of Antarctica, jealously guarding and often fighting over the best rocks. There are over 2.5 million breeding pairs living in Antarctica.  They live in groups of about 10,000 birds.

Adelie Penguin

African Penguins
African penguins have a black upside down U-shape on their neck with black speckles on their chest.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh between 7 and 11 pounds.
African penguins live and breed on the coast of South Africa.  People have hunted these penguins so much that their numbers declined from at least one million to about 150,000.  They are now a protected species, but are still caused trouble by oil spills off the coast of Africa. African penguins are also known as the Blackfoot penguin.
Chinstrap Penguins
Chinstrap penguins get their name from the small black band that runs under their chin.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh about 10 pounds.  They feed on krill and fish. Chinstrap penguins are the most common penguins with a population of about 13 million.  They often live on large icebergs on the open ocean in the Antarctic region.

Chinstrap Penguin

Emperor Penguins
Emperor penguins are the largest penguin species.  They are nearly 4 feet tall and weigh up to 90 pounds.  Those are BIG penguins! Emperor penguins are easily identifiable by their size and the orange “glow” on their cheeks. Emperor penguins live, year round, in the Antarctic. Temperatures can fall as low as -140 degrees Fahrenheit (-60 degrees Celsius).   Most penguin species lay two eggs at a time, but due to the difficulty of raising chicks in such a harsh climate, the Emperor penguin only lays one egg.

Emperor Penguin

Most penguin species take turns warming the egg, but it’s up to the Emperor penguin dads to do all the work once the egg is laid.  The male stands with the egg on his feet under a brood pouch (for warmth).  He does this for up to 9 weeks, without food, waiting for the chick to hatch.  During this time, the male may lose up to half its body weight. Once the egg hatches, the female returns and the male heads out to the ocean to feed.
Galapagos Penguins
Penguins do not live in the wild in any location in the Northern Hemisphere.
But, one penguin comes close. The northern most colony of penguins are located in the Galapagos Islands.  The Galapagos Penguins can survive close to the equator because the Humboldt current brings cold waters to the islands from the Antarctic.
Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo penguins live on many of the islands of the Antarctic region but the main colony is on the Falklands.  They are about 3 feet tall and weigh about 13 pounds.  Their diet consists of krill and some small fish.  Gentoo penguins are easily identifiable by the wide white stripe over the top of their head.  It runs from one eye to the other.
Gentoo penguins make nests on the inland grasslands.  They pile stones, grass and sticks to create a circular nest.  Like the Adelies and Chinstrap penguins, the Gentoo will also fight over stones for nesting.

Gentoo Penguin

King Penguins
The King penguin is the second largest penguin and looks somewhat like the Emperor penguin.  They are about 3 feet tall and weigh up to 35 pounds. King penguins have orange spots near their ears and on the neck. King penguins mainly eat fish and some squid and crustaceans.  They are found on many sub-Antarctic islands including Crozet, Prince Edward , Kerguelen, South Georgia and Mazquarie Islands. Like the Emperor penguin, the King penguin hatches only one chick at a time.  Their chicks have fuzzy brown feathers for about a year after they are born.

King Penguin and Chick

Macaroni Penguins
“Macaroni” used to be a hairstyle in 18th century England. Didn’t you ever wonder why Yankee Doodle called the feather in his cap, “Macaroni”?  It’s not about pasta, it’s about a penguin!!   The Macaroni penguins were so named by English sailors because the yellow and black feathers sticking out of the side of their heads looked like an 18th century English hairstyle.

Stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni

Magellanic penguins were named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first saw them in 1519 on his first voyage around the tip of South America. Magellanic penguins are about 2 feet, 3 inches tall and weigh 9 pounds.  They are the largest of the warm weather penguins. They live on the coast of the Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. During mating season, Magellanic penguins burrow, forming underground nesting colonies.

Magellanic Penguins

Rockhopper Penguins
Similar to the Macaroni penguins, the Rockhopper penguins have decorative feather tufts on their heads — theirs are yellow in color.  Their most unusual trait is their ability to hop from rock to rock to their nesting places.  They keep both feet together when hopping.  Using this method, they are able to hop up to four or five feet!

Rockhopper and Chick

Yellow-eyed Penguins

The yellow-eyed penguins have a band of yellow feathers going from the bill, circling the eyes and up around the head. The yellow-eyed penguin lives on the coast of New Zealond.  It is the rarest of all penguins due to the deforestation of the New Zealand coastline and the introduction of new predatory species to the island.  Sadly, there are only an estimated 1,500 breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins.

The rare Yellow Eyed Penguin of New Zealand

Penguin Condos

October 20, 2010

“Condo” developers have built beach-front homes along the world-famous coastline of the Galapagos Islands — but the Penguin Post has learned it’s all for a good cause.  Built into the volcanic shoreline, the condos are actually tiny breeding caves for Galapagos penguins — a species listed as endangered.   The 120 caves were dug by researchers with the University of Washington last month in the hopes of giving the penguins a fighting chance against predators and the beating sun.

The local penguin population has also seen older nests disappear due to erosion and volcanic activity on the islands off Ecuador made famous by Charles Darwin.

A one bedroom "penguin condo" is prepared last month along the Galapagos coastline.

“Our whole goal is to increase the population of Galapagos penguins, and the way to do that is to make sure that when conditions are good, when they’re not food challenged, that all of them will be able to breed,” lead researcher Dee Boersma said in a statement.

Boersma began studying the species 40 years ago and has seen the population decline steadily — fewer than 2,000 might be all that are left.  “One of the biggest problems is the introduced species of predators” to the Galapagos — including pigs, dogs, cats and rats, Boersma said. “We went to lengths to build nests in places where there aren’t introduced predators.”   The team built 100 nests in relative close clusts as well as 20 farther apart — “in case some penguins prefer to be more isolated,” the researchers said.  Boersma plans to return in February to evaluate the project, but was already hopeful after seeing La Nina ocean conditions bring plentiful food to the penguins.

A Galapagos penguin and two chicks hang out on volcanic rocks near new nests built last month.

“We found everything from eggs to small chicks to near-fledglings because the food is so good” now, she said. “The penguins are ready, if the food stays, to begin breeding. The question is will they find these new nest sites in time.”