Distribution and habitat of yellow-eyed penguins / hoiho

The yellow-eyed penguin / hoiho is only found in New Zealand, nowhere else in the world!

There are two distinct populations; the northern population breed on the south-east coast of the South Island of mainland New Zealand / Aotearoa, Stewart Island / Rakiura (including Codfish Island / Whenua Hou) and outliers, and the southern population breed on the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands / Motu Maha and Campbell Island / Motu Ihupuku. The birds in the sub-Antarctic are genetically distinct from those on the mainland, as they very rarely mix.

There are four major breeding regions on the mainland:  Banks Peninsula, North Otago, Otago Peninsula and the Catlins.

Juvenile hoiho tend to swim north from the breeding sites, sometimes dispersing as far as Taranaki and the Bay of Plenty.

Hoiho live in native coastal forests, scrub or dense flax, although they also use pasture and exotic vegetation. Nest sites are carefully selected – a suitable site should have a solid back such as a log, rock or flax plant, and provide shelter from harsh weather and the heat of the sun. The nest itself is a shallow bowl typically filled with twigs, grass and other vegetation. Sites are accessed from the sea via rock platforms, or sandy / gravel beaches.

If you are in Southern New Zealand and hoping to see hoiho, we recommend visiting The Otago Peninsula Eco Restoration Alliance (The OPERA) and booking a Penguin Tour.

Contact or book via their website or phone: +64 3 478 0286.


The latest from the YEP Trust


Support the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust


Donate Now


Enter your details below to sign up