Yellow-eyed penguin breeding update from Rakiura & Whenua Hou
The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust has continued our monitoring program at selected yellow-eyed penguin breeding sites on Rakiura / Stewart Island and Whenua Hou / Codfish Island. Trust contractor Sandy King says it is a mixed bag of results with nest numbers down across all sites.
As released in December, the most concerning decline has been on Whenua Hou where 16 nests were located – down from 24 in 2016 and 61 in 2001. A check of nest sites in December found that most eggs (97%) had hatched but only 11 chicks were still alive.
On the Bravo Islands group (Tommy, Goat, Groper and Crayfish Islands) hatching was also good (96%) and in early January, 19 chicks were found alive from 26 eggs.
90% of eggs hatched on the Anglem Coast (Rollers and Golden Beaches) and 12 chicks from 21 eggs were found alive in January. However, there was quite a difference between the two sites with only 2 chicks surviving from 9 eggs at Rollers Beach and 10 chicks from 12 eggs at Golden Beach. The two sites are relatively close, so why the difference?
Sandy has now completed the final check for the season on Whenua Hou. One chick had died since December, and four more were very small and covered in down. At this time they should be almost fully feathered, and these four were so far behind it seems unlikely they will survive to fledge.
However, Sandy says there are always some surprises! In December a chick looked really ill (small, with short sparse down and bald patches, and swollen eyes and throat) but on checking on it in February, it was alive and well and weighed 5.4kg. We’d love more surprises like that!