Penguins Down Under

With their waddling gait, tuxedo-like coloring, and inability to fly, penguins are some of the world’s most iconic birds. Ask the average person where to find penguins and they will mostly likely tell you to check the South Pole. Penguins do indeed favor colder waters, but only seven species out of roughy 20 inhabit the Antarctic. It may sound surprising to hear that there are penguins in Australia, a continent usually associated with scorching, arid deserts. The Land Down Under just so happens to be home to the world’s smallest, and arguably most adorable, penguin species, the little blue penguin.

Where do little blue penguins live?

Like all penguins, little blue penguins are native to the Southern Hemisphere. They can be found all along the southern coast of Australia from Western Australia to Victoria and up through New South Wales. Little blue penguins are also found in Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands. There have also been reports of little blue penguins from Chile.

Are little blue penguins really blue?

Unlike other penguin species, little blue penguins have dorsal feathers and flippers that are blue rather than black. They are still white underneath, as this countershading proves very effective camouflage out in open water. Immature penguins are lighter in color than the adults. Little blue penguins are the smallest of all penguins, standing just over a foot tall and weighing three pounds. Because of their size and color, they are sometimes called fairy penguins.

What do little blue penguins eat?

Little blue penguins do all of their hunting in the ocean, although they generally stay close to shore. They are diurnal hunters that rely on their sharp eyesight to look for baitfish, squid, and crustaceans. Recent research has shown that they also actively prey on certain species of jellyfish, particularly the genera Chrysaora and Cyanea. Most of a penguin’s dives are short, no deeper than about six feet and for maybe about 20 seconds, and thus the birds must dive frequently in order to feed. However, they can stay submerged for as long as a minute and swim to depths of over 60 feet.

Are little blue penguins endangered?

With a global population of an estimated 600,000 individuals, the little blue penguin is not endangered and is classified as least concern. That being said, they face the same threats that other seabirds face. They are susceptible to oil spills, getting tangled in fishing gear, and accidentally ingesting plastic. As human development encroaches on their nesting sites, penguins are at greater risk of being hit by cars. Due to their small size little blue penguins have great difficulty defending themselves from their natural predators, which include sea lions, white-bellied sea eagles, and even monitor lizards when they come ashore. Invasive species like stoats, foxes, rats, and feral cats prey on eggs and chicks.


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