Interesting facts about Fiordland penguins

fiordland penguin

The Fiordland penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) is a species of penguin.

It is also known as the Fiordland crested penguin and in Māori, tawaki or pokotiwha.

Fiordland Penguins are found from the southwestern coast of the South Island of New Zealand, to the nearby islands of Stewart and Solander.

This bird species have a pelagic aquatic habitat (open ocean). They will spend up to 75% of their lives in the ocean during the winter, as a result barnacles often attach themselves to the penguins tail. The other 25% of the Fiordlands life is spent on secluded land areas during the breeding season.

Fiordland Penguins can live for 15 to 20 years.


Fiordland penguins can reach up to 55 centimeters (about 22 inches) in length and weigh up to 4 kilograms (about 9 pounds).

Fiordland Penguins are monomorphic, that is the male and female look alike, but males are slightly larger than females.

The tail, flippers, head, and back are adorned with blue-black plumage, whereas feathers on the chest and underside are white.

This species is characterized by a thick stripe of pale yellow feather plumes above each eye (the superciliary stripe) that extends from the bill to the rear of the head.


It can be distinguished from the similar erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri) and Snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus) in having no bare skin around the base of its bill.

The Fiordland Penguin resides in the ocean during the winter. Living there alone for many months, the Fiordland demonstrates its solitary lifestyle.

In July, the Fiordland travels to land and dwells there for the breeding season. In the day time, this shy and timid penguin hides at its nesting site, maintaining seclusion from outsiders. At night, the Fiordland Penguin is active (nocturnal).

This penguin nests in colonies among tree roots and rocks in dense temperate coastal forest. It breeds along the shores the West Coast of the South Island south of about Bruce Bay and the Open Bay Islands, around Fiordland and Foveaux Strait, and on Stewart Island/Rakiura and its outlying islands.


Fiordland nests can be located in caves, under logs, at the base of trees, and under bushes (particularly away from sand flies).

In July breeding pairs typically lay two pale-green eggs, which incubate for 4-6 weeks. The male guards the chicks for the first few weeks of life, while the mother hunts for food. Thereafter the male and female take turns caring for them. During the day, older chicks may wander to other nests to form “crèches” (groups) with other members of their cohort, returning later to the home nest to feed.

Following breeding, the adults leave for 60-80 days to fatten up for the annual moult.


Their predators include fur seals, stoats, ferrets, skuas, wekas and larger predatory fish.

Ecologists note that Fiordland penguins have declined since the early 1980s because of predation pressure on eggs and chicks. Breeding pairs once numbering 5,000 to 10,000 in the mid-1980s had fallen to 2,500 to 3,000.

The Fiordland penguin was described in 1845 by English zoologist George Robert Gray, its specific epithet derived from the Ancient Greek pachy-/παχυ- “thick” and rhynchos/ρύγχος “beak”.

The Fiordland penguin is one of six species in the genus Eudyptes, the generic name derived from the Ancient Greek eu/ευ “good” and dyptes/δύπτης “diver”.