KIRAN CHUG - The Dominion Post
CHRIS SKELTON/Dominion Post
The chicks mark the success of Wellington's Places for Penguins project, an ambitious plan to make the city safer for the vulnerable native birds. Run by Forest & Bird since 2007, the project has grown dramatically this year with Wellington Zoo coming on board.
Project co-ordinator Jenny Lynch said 10 chicks had been found so far in protective nesting boxes spread around the coast this winter by volunteers. "They're quite downy and don't have their full feathers yet, but they'll soon be out in the big wide world."
Little blue penguins face a tough fight for survival on Wellington's south coast, with dogs posing a threat on beaches and cars presenting an added danger for those crossing the road to get to their nests.
The Places for Penguins programme began at Tarakena Bay, where penguins were already nesting on the seaward side of the road, meaning they had no need to cross when they came in to nest.
Volunteers have been planting vegetation and installing nest boxes like their natural burrows, and this year put in about 100 from Island Bay to Breaker Bay.
At Moa Point and Karaka Bay, Miss Lynch said about 10 chicks had been found nesting. They looked to be about eight weeks old, and would soon have their waterproof feathers and be ready to head out to sea each day to feed on the small bait fish they favoured.
Although all looked healthy, Miss Lynch warned it was possible to find chicks washed up on the shoreline around January and February. "Sometimes there's storm events, other times it's just a bit tough for them out there."
Seeing chicks in new nesting boxes so early on was an excellent sign, as it could take years for penguins to take to them.
She expected there would be more chicks in the natural nests.
Adult little blue penguins weigh about a kilogram and stand 30 centimetres tall, and the chicks were almost at their full size.