Little Blue Penguins, Eudyptula minor
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Description & Behavior
Little blue penguins, Eudyptula minor (Forster, 1781), aka littles, blues or fairy penguins, were first described by Johann Reinhold Forster in the late 18th century during his voyages with Captain Cook on the HMS Resolution. They are the smallest penguin species standing only 25 cm tall and weighing an average of 1 kg. Little blues have a slightly different "tuxedo" in that they sport slate blue plumage on the back with a white belly. Little blue penguins are known for the variety of calls they use to communicate at sea, declare territory and call for mates.
World Range & Habitat
Breeding colonies of little blue penguins, Eudyptula minor, are found throughout southern Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, distribution extends from the Shoalwater Islands, near Perth in Western Australia, across the southern coast (including the Bass Strait and Tasmania), and along the east coast as far north as South Solitary Island in New South Wales. In New Zealand, little blue penguins are found along the coasts of the Chatham, North, South and Stewart Islands. This species typically breeds on offshore islands, but colonies are occasionally formed along the mainland where they are inaccessible to predators. Some breeding sites have been found near urban areas where little blue penguins have nested under buildings and other man-made structures. This species tends to return to the same breeding site year after year and juveniles often return to their birth site to breed when they reach sexual maturity.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
Little blue penguins, Eudyptula minor, feed on small fishes, including Australian anchovies, crustaceans and squid diving to average depths of 10-20 m for an average of 24 seconds, although dives as deep as 60 m have been recorded. They tend to remain within 25 km of the coast when foraging, however longer trips up to 75 km have been recorded. The little blue penguin can reach swim speeds of up to 6 kph.
Little blue penguins, Eudyptula minor, reach sexual maturity between the ages of 2-3. In New Zealand, eggs are laid between September and November. Typically 2 eggs are laid and incubated for about 36 days by both parents. Once hatched, parents alternate guarding and feeding the chicks for the first 2-3 weeks, then both parents leave the chicks to forage as more food is required to support their rapid growth. Chicks reach their adult weight of 1 kg in about a month and typically fledge about a month later.
Conservation Status & Comments
Little blue penguin populations are thought to have declined due to predation by land animals, particularly in areas where domestic animals are common. In addition, this species are often killed by cars crossing coastal roads to reach their burrows.
References & Further Research
Center for Biological Diversity: Penguins
Little (Blue or Fairy) Penguin, Eudyptula minor - International Penguin Conservation Working Group
New Zealand Penguins, by Dave Houston
Blue penguin foraging by Dave Houston @ Penguin.net.nz
Research Eudyptula minor » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS
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