The White-flippered penguin has at different times been considered a separate species, a subspecies, and just a colour morph. At present it is being treated as a sub species of the little or blue penguin with the scientific name Eudyptula minor albosignata.
They are endemic to Canterbury breeding in significant numbers only on Banks Peninsula and Motunau Island 65 km north of Christchurch. At sea young birds range up and down the east coast of the South Island while adults tend to remain closer to where they nest.
Maori did not recognise the different forms of the little penguin calling them all korora.
The average age of breeding birds is about 8 years. They reach old age at around 15 to 20 years, which is the human equivalent of 60 to 80 years of age. The oldest bird found so far was 23 years and 9 months old when last seen alive.
They usually keep the same mate from season to season. This bond is eventually broken by divorce, which occurs occasionally, or when one member of the pair fails to return to the nest site. When either of these happens the newly single bird quickly finds a new mate.
Most birds pair and nest for the first time when 3 years old. In favourable seasons a significant number will breed a year earlier when 2 years old, and in less favourable seasons a few birds may wait until they are 4 years old.
Pairs lay two eggs each season and can rear two chicks. Losses occur at the egg stage through infertility and breakage, and during the chick stage for a variety of reasons including starvation. In normal seasons an average of 1.0 to 1.4 chicks are reared for each two-egg clutch laid.
No. Like all sea birds and marine mammals they must come to the surface to breath.
They appear to rely primarily on eyesight to find and catch their food underwater.
They can spend long periods at sea without coming ashore; for example first year birds can stay at sea for up to ten months. During this time they spend varying lengths of time resting on the surface which serves as sleep as we know it.
Single birds and small groups can sometimes be seen from boats at sea during the day. They return ashore to their nest sites at night and commonly remain in their burrows during the day. The most accessible colony for visitors is that in Harris Bay near Christchurch. There are usually some birds there from the start of the breeding season in September until the end of the moult in mid February.
Yes, they are. The most recent estimate of the total population is only 4,000 pairs (1,800 on Motunau Island and 2,200 on Banks Peninsula). IUCN (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) and Birdlife International classified White-flippered penguin as "Endangered", and D.O.C. (Department of Conservation, New Zealand) as "Acutely-Threatened."
Yes, they are. Of course, all the living creatures are important. However, considering the fact that White-flippered penguins are the only endemic species unique to Canterbury, the importance of White-flippered penguins to Canterbury is significant from the viewpoint of protecting our own local biodiversity.
Turning Point 2000 funded the first translocation of 46 penguin chicks from Motunau Island to Harris Bay. Further translocations have been funded by the Trust.Initiatives at Flea Bay to both protect and expand the colony there have been undertaken by the Helps Family.
This can be by:
Yes! This can be by joining the Trust and/or being an advocate for the Trust's proposal for a 'penguin parade' at Boulder Bay.
Sadly no. The Mayor and many of the Councillors support the exclusive private occupation of the baches on the Queen's Chain at Boulder Bay.
Providing the bach occupiers obey conditions imposed to ensure the penguin colony is not threatened, particularly during the breeding season, this should be possible.
However that said, it needs to be pointed out that at Phillip Island in Victoria, Australia, where a significant colony of Little Blue penguins exists, conflict between people and penguins was unable to be resolved amicably. Because of the Victorian State Government's recognition of the importance of protecting the penguins all the private dwellings on the adjoining estate became subject to compulsory acquisition. Unlike Boulder Bay where the baches are located on public land at Phillip Island the dwellings were legally sited on private freehold land.
Vehicle access to the headland above Boulder Bay is possible. Although without formal agreement for access over the Reserve Land the current bach occupiers use this all weather gently graded 'road' which is linked to the Godley Head road. A short walk via a track leads from the headland down to the Bay.
Alternative access is available via the well known and used walkway from the Taylors Mistake car park.
All year round but the breeding season will give best opportunities for watching the 'penguin parade'.
Initially up to 50 birds with an expected increase to some 200 plus birds after a few years.
By both predator fencing the breeding area and a trapping program.
By writing a letter of support to the Mayor and Councillors stressing the importance of the penguins to Canterbury and our obligation to save and nurture this most important species.