A mystery penguin seen at Hercules Bay is confounding even the experts.
The bird was spotted amongst the macaroni penguin colony by naturalists working as staff on cruise ship “Polar Star”. There was hot debate on board as to what the bird was, some claiming it to be a royal penguin, whilst other said it was surely just an aberrant macaroni.
The bird was said to be slightly larger than the surrounding macaroni penguins with a more massive bill and a white chin and throat, it also has a different pattern to the yellow feathers above the eye. The opinions of two bird experts were sought. One agreed that though the penguin obviously suggested a Royal Penguin, which only breeds at Maquarie Island near New Zealand, and despite the white chin and heavy bill, it was actually not a royal, which have a very distinctive "look and feel" about them; it was a 'white-faced' macaroni, almost certainly a male.
But the other expert begged to differ. He said the bird in the photo was indeed a royal, and reminded us that macaroni and royal penguins were once thought to be the same species. He also said the only way to be sure would be to get a feather sample and have it DNA analysed!
Do you know what the bird is? If you want to join the debate leave a comment on this website and we will pass it on.
Many king penguins are up to moult, and locals are delighted that maybe as many as seven kings are incubating eggs at the newly forming colony at Penguin River. Only three or four pairs have laid here together before.