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The little penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest penguin in the world, approximately 33cm long and weighs about 1kg.  It is stocky, dark blue and white in colour, with a long, robust, dark hooked bill, blue-grey eyes, relatively short flipper-like wings, and pinkish-white legs and feet.

They are sometimes known as the kororā, little blue penguin, blue penguin, fairy penguin and white-flippered penguin. Their paddle-like flippers are excellent for ‘flying’ through the water at speeds of up to 6 km/h.

They were once common along the shores of New Zealand, but now most live on offshore islands where there is less disturbance. Where predator control is in place, populations have been stable or increasing but they are declining in areas not protected. Dogs are likely the greatest threat to little penguin. Cats, ferrets and stoats will also kill them. Little penguins are also killed crossing coastal roads, being hit by boats, or caught in set nets.

Little penguins often return to where they hatched. Adult birds come ashore between May and June to prepare nests. They may waddle up to 1.5 km from the sea, and climb 300 m to find the perfect nest site. Traditional nests are in underground burrows, under vegetation, in crevices, between rocks or in caves. Little penguins may also nest under houses and boat sheds, in stormwater pipes, and stacks of timber.

Breeding usually begins at 2-3 years of age and Kororā normally form long-term pair bonds. The parents share the incubation of the usual two eggs for 35 days.

Once hatched one parent stays with the chicks for the first three weeks. At three weeks, the food demand of the chicks requires both parents to go to sea to keep up with the demand for fish.

When the chicks moult their downy baby feathers for waterproof ones, they stop eating and hide away. They are at their most vulnerable at this time as they cannot float or swim.

Chicks grow very fast. They gain adult weight by 4-5 weeks. Chicks usually leave the nest at 8 weeks and from then on they are independent.

You can help to keep penguins safe

  • Leave penguins alone. Usually scruffy birds are simply moulting.
  • Put your dog on a leash around penguin areas.
  • Keep your cat in at night.
  • Keep your dog away from nests, and warn others nearby of the location.
  • If you find a dead or injured penguin leave it alone. Community groups regularly count dead seabirds and will remove them from beaches.
  • If a sick penguin is at risk from attack by dogs or other predators, place it under vegetation in the rear-dune well away from people. Or you can take it to a local bird rescue centre.
  • Do not give emaciated penguins food. The rehabilitation of seabirds requires specialist knowledge and training.
  • In late March to April (before the breeding season), you should block up access points under your house.
If a penguin is clearly injured or in immediate danger, contact the emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Build a nest box

The Little Penguin Nest Box Design has been successfully used where suitable nest sites have not been available, or to relocate birds evicted from their chosen nest site (eg removed from under houses).

Penguins readily adopt the boxes, in some cases being occupied just a few hours after being placed! Place boxes with the tunnel entrances pointing slightly downhill (for drainage) and around 2 m apart.

They prefer nest boxes over natural sites, and breeding success in the boxes has been equal or higher than that observed at natural sites.

Get involved!

The animals and plants of Tōtaranui need your help now!