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A photo of a Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi)
Northern Rockhopper Penguin

Northern Rockhopper Penguin

Eudyptes moseleyi

The Northern Rockhopper Penguin, also known as Moseley's Rockhopper Penguin or simply Moseley's Penguin, is a charismatic seabird with a distinctive appearance. It is recognized by its slate-grey back and flippers, a white belly, and the striking yellow and black spiky plumes that adorn its head. Larger than its southern relatives, this penguin species exhibits a robust build and a gape marked by a fleshy margin.

Identification Tips

When observing these penguins, look for the long yellow eyebrow-like feathers that extend from the forehead and droop behind the eyes. The Northern Rockhopper Penguin also has a larger superciliary stripe in front of the eye compared to its southern counterparts. Its red eyes and orange beak are also notable features that aid in identification.


These penguins are found in the southern Indian and Atlantic Oceans, where they breed on remote islands. Their colonies are typically located on rocky shores, cliffs, and sometimes inland areas.


The majority of Northern Rockhopper Penguins breed on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island in the south Atlantic Ocean. Smaller populations are found on Amsterdam Island and St Paul Island, which are part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Sightings on the Australian continent are extremely rare.


Northern Rockhopper Penguins are known for their agility on land, often seen hopping across rocky terrain. They are social birds, breeding in large colonies where they engage in elaborate mating rituals, including distinctive songs and displays involving their head ornaments.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Northern Rockhopper Penguin are an essential part of their mating rituals, with each subspecies having its unique calls that reinforce reproductive isolation.


Breeding occurs in colonies that can be found from sea level to cliff sides and sometimes further inland. These penguins are monogamous, with a split in mitochondrial DNA indicating two subspecies: the northern and southern rockhopper penguin. Adults feed their chicks lower trophic level prey than they consume themselves.

Similar Species

The Northern Rockhopper Penguin can be confused with the Southern Rockhopper Penguin, but differences in crest length, gape margin, flipper pattern, and size help distinguish them.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists of krill, crustaceans, squid, octopus, and fish. They are adept hunters, diving into the ocean to catch their prey.

Conservation status

The Northern Rockhopper Penguin is classified as Endangered, with a dramatic decline of 90% in its population since the 1950s. Threats include climate change, overfishing, predation, and human disturbance. Conservation efforts are crucial to prevent further declines in their numbers.

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Northern Rockhopper Penguins on Birda

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Christa Harmsen
07 Apr 2024 - 6:33am
South Africa

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