Marine Life - Penguins Kangaroo Island - Credit: SATC/Milton Wordley

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Fairy Penguin

  • SUMMARY

The Little Penguin is the smallest species of penguin, found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand. It typically grows to 43cm in height and weighs about one kilogram.

The male is a little larger than the female, although their plumage is similar. The head and upperparts are indigo in colour, with slate-grey ear coverts fading to white underneath, from the chin to the belly. The flippers are indigo above and white underneath. The dark grey-black bill is 3-4cm long, the irises pale silvery- or bluish-grey or hazel, and the feet whitish above with black soles and webbing.

Like most seabirds, they have a long lifespan. The average for the species is 6.5 years, but flipper ringing experiments have recorded individuals that have lived for over 20 years. They feed by hunting fish, squid, and other small sea animals, for which they travel and dive quite extensively.

They live year-round in large colonies, with each individual breeding pair forming a burrow in which to raise their chicks (of which two are born at a time). Little Penguins typically return to their colonies to feed their chicks at dusk; the birds will tend to come ashore in small groups to provide some defense against predators which might pick off individuals one by one. In Australia, the strongest colonies are on cat-free and fox-free islands.