Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

Are White-flippered penguins the same species as Blue Penguins?

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.

Where do White-flippered penguins live?

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.

What is the Maori name for White-flippered Penguins?

Maori did not recognise the different forms of the little penguin calling them all korora.

How long do White-flippered penguins live?

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.

Do White-flippered penguins mate for life?

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.

When do they breed for the first time?

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.

How many eggs do they hatch per pair?

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.

Can White-flippered penguins breathe under the water?

No. Like all sea birds and marine mammals they must come to the surface to breath.

How do White-flippered penguins find the fish they feed on?

They appear to rely primarily on eyesight to find and catch their food underwater.

Do White-flippered penguins sleep when at sea?

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.

Where can I see and meet White-flippered penguins?

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.

Conservation

Are White-flippered penguins endangered?

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."

Are White-flippered penguins important for Canterbury and New Zealand?

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.

Who finances the current conservation programs of White-flippered penguins?

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.

How can I support the conservation programs for the White-flippered penguins?

This can be by:

  1. Becoming a member of the Trust.
  2. Supporting the work of the Trust by making a donation.
  3. Making the Mayor, Councillors and Citizens of Christchurch aware of the importance of these unique and endangered birds that are only found in Canterbury. Writing a letter of support to officials is an effective way of helping the Trust.

Can I participate in the conservation programs for the White-flippered penguins?

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.

Boulder Bay Project

Does the Christchurch City council support the project?

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.

Will the Penguins and bach occupiers be able to 'live' together harmoniously 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.

How will the public get to and from the Penguin Parade?

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.

What times of the year can the public view the Penguins?

All year round but the breeding season will give best opportunities for watching the 'penguin parade'.

How many Penguins will be nesting at Boulder Bay?

Initially up to 50 birds with an expected increase to some 200 plus birds after a few years.

How will the Penguins be protected from cats, dogs, stoats and other predators?

By both predator fencing the breeding area and a trapping program.

How can I support the Boulder Bay Reserve project?

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.