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Yellow-Eyed Penguin adult (Megadyptes
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G.
Explanation: Of the 16 species of penguins in the world, this is the rarest ... the aptly-named Yellow-Eyed Penguin, found only in New Zealand.
Maoris called it hoiho. Not a colonial species like most other penguins, Yellow-Eyed Penguins inhabit solitary nests. They habitually return to their mainland and island nest in New Zealand, and live a mostly sedentary life.
It is the only species of this genus (Megadyptes), the third largest penguin, and is likely the most ancient of all penguins.
It is also threatened with a declining population likely caused by human disturbance, loss of native forest cover, and non-native predators including cats, stoats, and ferrets. The total population may not exceed about 4500 to 5000 individuals. Most (80%) of the population occurs on Campbell, Auckland, and Stewart Islands, with the rest on South Island between Christchurch and Ivercargill.
They can be readily observed at a nesting ground on Otago Peninsula on South Island, New Zealand, where enterprising owners operate a sanctuary and tours. Local conservation efforts, largely led by the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust, also include regenerating the native broadleaf, toitoi, and native flax vegetation as important nesting and resting cover.
They have an interesting array of vocalizations. Click here to hear the "trumpet" contact call, and click here to hear chittering between adult and juvenile (mp3 files). These are recordings I made while visiting the Otago Peninsula nesting site (© Bruce G. Marcot).
Next week's picture: The Naked Tree of Patagonia
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