Little PenguinScientific name: Eudyptula minor
Size: 1.2 kg (m), 1.0 kg (f)
Nest type: burrow, cave or under bushes
Favourite food: small fish
The world’s smallest penguin (also known as Little Blue, Blue and Fairy Penguin).
The Little Penguin closely resembles juveniles of the genus Spheniscus, but their ranges do not overlap. Upper parts are pale blue to a dark grey-blue depending upon age, season and subspecies. The transition from the dark upper parts to the white plumage of the lower body is not as well defined as in other penguins, going through shades of grey and brown, especially in the face.
In contrast to the other species, Little Penguins are nocturnal. That means they generally do not enter the shore before dusk and leave it before dawn. They forage during the day and often will sleep beside the nest at night after they have fed chicks. This species nests in burrows, under trees, in rock crevices, and sometimes in caves. Usually nests are clustered to form colonies, but single breeding pairs are not uncommon. At sea Little Penguins are often found alone or in small groups of up to ten birds, but sometimes these groups can be much larger. Although foraging trip durations can be highly variable, Little Penguins tend to stay close to the coast.
Little Penguins are widely distributed in Australia (from Western Australia along the southern coast of Australia up to New South Wales) and in New Zealand (from Northland to Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands). The White-flippered Penguin (E. m. albosignata) is an endangered subspecies, restricted to Banks Peninsula and Motonau Island (South Island, New Zealand) that has often been treated as a full species. Geographic variation of size, extent of white on the tail and flipper, and colour tone of the back is considerable. Six subspecies have been described: novaehollandia in Australia, iredaei in northern New Zealand, variabilis from Cook Strait, New Zealand, albosignata on Banks Peninsula, minor in the lower part of the South Island, New Zealand, and chathamensis from the Chatham Islands.
Migration and Vagrancy:
Juveniles disperse widely after fledging. Adults sometimes undertake long trips at sea during the non-breeding season, but return regularly to the colony throughout the year.
Breeding Season and Moult:
The breeding season is highly variable from place to place and in some areas from year to year. It usually begins in August/September. The first chicks fledge in November/December, but in many areas there are second or, sometimes even, third clutches laid, which can extend the breeding season up to May. Little Penguins moult once at the end of the breeding season. At Phillip Island, Australia, this occurs mainly between mid-February and mid-March. Moulting is more synchronised than laying.
Mainly fish, especially sardines and anchovies, but also cephalopods and to a very small degree crustaceans.