Q & A

How can you tell if a penguin’s male or female?

Male and female penguins look the same, but scientists can tell them apart using a combination of head and feet measurements. Males tend to be slightly bigger.

What makes yellow-eyed penguin feathers waterproof?

Penguin feathers are short and stiff and lock making the birds waterproof. Anything that damages the feathers – like oil or other contaminants which interfere with the interlocking and the natural oils produced by the birds – will mean that the feathers will lose their waterproofing. Birds cannot return to the sea if this happens as they would get wet to the skin and very cold. There are techniques that can be used to clean the feathers of the contaminants and make them waterproof again – but this requires human help.

Do yellow-eyed penguins mate for life?

Yellow-eyed penguins are very faithful to their mates and each breeding season over 90% of pairs will re-unite. The hoiho will normally find another mate if their partner dies.

What happens to the chicks if the parents die?

Unfortunately, in most cases the chicks will die; if only one parent dies, the surviving adult will usually be able to raise the chicks on their own. As we closely monitor all nests on Trust reserves, an underweight chick will be uplifted to a rehabilitation facility or fed at the nest if there are concerns.

How can I help the yellow-eyed penguin?

The public can help hoiho in many different ways. Ideas include:

  • Keeping disturbance to a minimum by keeping your distance from birds on the beach
  • Do not take your dogs into penguin habitat and preferably walk them on a lead when at the beach
  • Reduce, re-use, recycle and dispose of all rubbish carefully
  • Think about what you put down your drains
  • Buy fish that is caught using penguin-friendly methods, rather than with set-nets
  • Contact your local or national government representatives to lobby for better protection
  • Write a submission on relevant issues to hoiho conservation (e.g. fishing restrictions, dog bylaws, cars on beaches bylaws)

If you do see a penguin that is injured or unwell or that is being harassed please ring immediately the DOC emergency hotline (0800 DOC HOT/0800 362 468).

Why do yellow-eyed penguins have yellow eyes?

The colour of the eye is a continuation of the colour band around the head. For the first year of their lives, yellow-eyed penguins do not have yellow eyes, they are grey, and neither do they have a yellow band around their head. The colour yellow is caused by a chemical called carotene which is also high in vitamin A. It is the pigment that gives the colour to things like carrots and tomatoes, but it is also found in small quantities in small sea creatures. A study on the importance of the yellow eye and feather colour in yellow-eyed penguins found that those birds that had deeper yellow colour tended to rear more chicks than those that were very pale, which suggest that these birds were better at catching food than those with pale eyes…”

Where can I see a yellow-eyed penguin?

The Trust recommends viewing yellow-eyed penguins with a commercial operator. This way you can get all of the inside knowledge and ensure that you have minimum impact on the birds. Please contact your local i-Site for information about tours that are offered. For more information, go to our Public viewing page.


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