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A photo of a Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)
Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Eudyptes chrysocome

The Southern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome, is a diminutive member of the crested penguins, characterized by its striking yellow eyebrows and long plumes that extend behind its red eyes. With a length of 45–58 cm and a weight of 2–3.4 kg, it is the smallest of the yellow-crested penguins within its genus.

Identification Tips

This species can be identified by its slate-grey upper parts and the distinctive yellow plumes that contrast with its black-and-white plumage. The red eyes are also a notable feature for identification.

Habitat

The Southern Rockhopper Penguin breeds on rocky, cliff-top colonies, sometimes venturing inland, across a range of subantarctic islands.

Distribution

The species is found in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as around the southern coasts of South America. It is divided into two subspecies: E. c. chrysocome in South America and E. c. filholi in subantarctic islands.

Behaviour

Rockhopper Penguins are aptly named for their unique hopping ability, navigating rocky terrain with surprising agility. They are social birds, often seen leaving and returning to their colonies in groups.

Breeding

Breeding season commences in September and concludes in November. Rockhoppers typically lay two eggs, but usually, only one chick is raised to fledging. The incubation period lasts about 35 days, with chicks being brooded for 26 days.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists predominantly of krill, squid, and crustaceans, supplemented by fish and other marine organisms. They are known to forage in groups, diving to varying depths depending on the availability of prey.

Conservation Status

The Southern Rockhopper Penguin is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, with a population decline of about one-third over the last three decades. Threats include commercial fishing and oil spills.

Relationship with Humans

These penguins are a popular attraction for tourists visiting their breeding colonies. Historically, they have been familiar to seafarers and explorers, making them the most recognized of the crested penguins.

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