Monday, September 16, 2013

'Penguin hotel' fills up fast after mild winter

Penguin Hotel
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ NEW ARRIVALS: Little blue penguins are already booking into the 'penguin hotel' in Breakwater Bay. 

A mild winter and early spring has little blue penguins heading to New Plymouth's shores earlier than normal this year.

Warmer days and a plentiful food supply have seen bookings at the "penguin hotel" at Chaddy Charters at Breakwater Bay filling fast, and the number of new chicks points to a successful breeding season.

"At the same time last year we only had one penguin sitting on eggs whereas this year we already have four," David "Chaddy" Chadfield said.

Penguins incubate their eggs for about four weeks and then care for the chicks for about another month before they venture into the world.

"You can tell if there are still babies in the nest by reading the pads (prints) when they go to the beach," Mr Chadfield said.

Once outside the nest chicks are easy prey for domestic pets.

"What we worry about is cats and dogs in the area. That's a biggy," Mr Chadfield said.

He asked that people keep an eye on their pets during the penguins' breeding season.

He said he had once seen a cat attempt to attack an adult penguin only to come off second best as the bird easily knocked it to the ground.

People are advised not to get too close to little blue penguins as they are big on attitude and have a sharp beak.

"I've seen one of these kill a rat. Hit it right point blank between the eyes," he said.

Visitors to Chaddy Charters are able to view one of the nests at the penguin hotel through a closed circuit TV setup, paid for by the George Mason Charitable Trust.

- Sharyn Smart is a Witt journalism student


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