The days are short and our Yellow-eyed penguins are making the most of daylight hours and their time-out before the serious business of courting starts. We have cameras in the our penguin colony and find that they return home after 5pm and have left by 7:30am - and most don't come home at all. The number of sets of footprints we see on the beach is a lot lower than number of penguins we know call this place home. Yellow-eyed penguins are unusual in the penguin family that they come home most days even when they are not breeding. We are looking forward to seeing and hearing them again as the days get longer!
We have three young Yellow-eyed penguins at our rehab facility at the moment. They are chicks from this past summer and all are 'repeat-offenders', that is they have been in rehab before. After their previous release they didn't manage to work out fishing but were smart enough to return to 'our' bit of coast and sit where we would find them. They always remember how to eat nicely and only take 2-3 weeks to fatten up again for the next attempt. They are always instructed to come back if they need more help - and they do!! Clever birds!
Today we released Stitches, the Yellow-eyed penguin we have featured before and most recently on 8 June. He was getting restless after his pen-mate was released a few days ago and he missed the company. Stitches is a resident in our colony now although he has not started breeding. He was hatched here and has been seen hanging round as a juvenile and was picked up twice. He knows to come back if he is in trouble and sit in an obvious spot in the colony where we come by and he will be picked up. For now he should be good to go - we just hope he remembers that he knows how to catch a fish!! Bon voyage, little one, and see you again soon! Be safe and come back fat!
Crossing the beach after a day's fishing, this Yellow-eyed penguin has a full belly and is looking fantastic. Winter is holiday for the penguins and all they have to do is feed themselves and come back to the colony occasionally. Soon they will be thinking about next spring and mates and nests and eggs and all those good things. For now though, feeding is what matters.
Not much is known about the social behaviour of Yellow-eyed penguins at sea. They return from fishing alone but does that mean they fish alone all day? In Ross Harbour at the north end of the Auckland Islands, groups of Yellow-eyed penguins appeared to be fishing cooperatively for small fish with White-fronted terns overhead diving down to get their share. The largest group sighted was 25 penguins. It was difficult to study this behaviour because as soon as our small run-about boat approached the activity they all stopped what they were doing and came over to have a look at us. Such curious birds!!
A peck on the cheek for this Yellow-eyed penguin mate after a day fishing. Mutual preening is an important courtship behaviour and these two were at it for ages. Strong bond!
Stitches is back! On 28 April we posted photos of Stitches' injuries that had been stitched up by the kind vets at the St Kildas vet clinic in Dunedin and we released him on 4 May weighing 6.2kg. He was ready to go. And then he came back. On 2 June he was sitting on a path we regularly use in the Yellow-eyed penguin colony waiting to be taken to hospital. He had lost a bit of weight, now only 3.2kg. We have had some rough weather and he obviously struggled to find food so he came home for a bit of TLC. We could scarcely believe it was the same bird as the wound is now only a little indentation on his lower belly - so no leaking dive suit (we quadrupled checked his chip!). This injury was a killer and without the vets the bird would have died. So thank you for your kindness and expertise! You have definitely saved this wee guy - may he live long and make many, many babies!
Setting off early in the morning for fishing: this Yellow-eyed penguin adult is heading out for the day. We have had some big seas, the waves were crashing onto the beach and we lost a lot of sand off some of them (it will come back). It made for an interesting departure for the penguins!
The Yellow-eyed penguins are in winter-mode now and some evenings very few are coming home and other evenings lots come home. It appears to be somewhat related to weather. They can sleep at sea - afterall they float when they do nothing and in the morning the fishing is close-by! Here are three adults hanging out after a day's fishing, resting ashore!