Little Penguins

The fairy penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest penguin species and is found only in southern Australia and New Zealand. Fairy penguins weigh approximately 1 kilogram and stand 30 cm high. Their dense waterproof plumage is dark blue on the upper parts of the body and white on the underside. The single Australian subspecies is distinguished from the five New Zealand subspecies by having a margin of white feathers on the tail and on the rear edge of each flipper.

Fairy penguins live on average for 7 years, and some retain the same mate for life. A clutch of two white eggs is laid in spring. Male and female birds share the 36-day period of egg incubation. When the chicks hatch they are initially helpless and are brooded continuously for about 2-3 weeks. After this period both adults leave the chicks unguarded in the nest during the day, while they forage at sea to obtain food for the rapidly growing chicks. By 8 weeks of age the chicks have lost their down and acquired the waterproof plumage necessary for independent life at sea. These young birds are not seen again at their original colonies for at least a year and may disperse widely during this period.

From: Little Penguin: Fairy Penguins in Australia Colin Stahel and Rosemary Gales, New South Wales University Press, 1987.

There are 17 species of penguins:


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Lynn Garry Salmon <>{

Last updated: July 2, 2008