Monday, December 29, 2014

New addition to penguin population

UNKNOWN: This small penguin has been spotted on the rocks around the Timaru port, but there are differing views on its breed.
Timaru is becoming known for its little blue penguins, but a penguin of another breed has been spotted on the rocks around the Timaru port.

Just what that breed is, though, has drawn differing opinions.
According to the Department of Conservation (DOC) it is a yellow-eyed penguin, but South Canterbury Museum director Phillip Howe thinks it could be a crested penguin from Fiordland or Snares Island below Stewart Island.

Both parties looked at a photo of the penguin and drew different conclusions.
Howe said the penguin chick looked as though it could be crested. "The line above the eye, the colour, and the beak which is short and chunky unlike the beak of the yellow-eyed penguin, indicates it could be a Fiordland crested penguin chick or a Snares penguin chick."

DOC says the Fiordland crested penguin, or tawaki, is one of the rarest of New Zealand's mainland penguins. Adults stand about 60cm and weigh up to 4 kilograms. Juvenile birds have a thinner eyebrow stripe and a white chin and throat. Most birds have between three and six grey/white cheek stripes. They have an orange bill, which is slightly larger in adult males.

DOC partnership ranger George Iles identified it as an immature bird because of its down feathers. He thought it was possibly a yellow-eyed penguin which was confirmed by DOC's emergency staff.
The main population for this species is in Oamaru but they are found along the coastline between Banks Peninsula and Stewart Island.

A spokesman at the DOC emergency line said no immediate action would be taken as the yellow-eyed penguin was not considered to be in danger.


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