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Little penguin

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Little penguin
Little Penguin-Sydney.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Eudyptula minor

Image Description
Group of Blue Penguins - Version Two.jpg

The Little penguin is a species of penguins which are native to New Zealand and southern Australia. They are perhaps best known as the smallest of the penguins reaching only 43 cm (16 in) tall. They are also known as Fairy penguin and the Little Blue penguin due to the blue tint of their feathers.

Anatomy

Eudyptula minor, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Little penguin are just like any other penguin, their wings are useless when it comes to flying, and instead, they use their flippers for their own unique kind of flight under water.[1] The penguin’s flipper is hard, rigid, and covered with a thin layer of non-waterproof feathers. A small layer of air is held in the feathers of the flipper so as to help the bird while swimming.[2] Usually, the bird can only use their wings for flight with a down-stoke, but since penguins don’t have to worry, about flying they can use both an up and down stoke in the water. [3] That gives them more speed and agility, as well as grace, in the water.The penguins color scheme is of a white (on their belly) and a darker-color (on their back). This helps the bird camouflage into their environment and keeps them safe from most of their predators. Their white belly will confuse the predator from below – the predator not knowing the difference between the penguin and the water’s surface – and the same goes for their darker upper side from above. [4] They are the smallest penguins - only standing about 16 to 17 inches, and weighing just 2 pounds. [5]

The penguin's senses are extremely useful; just their hearing alone is amazing. Their vision is made for their underwater dives, and is mainly used for capturing their food and dodging their usual predators, the orca and seal lion. The only problem is when they get out of the water and are back on the land, they are nearsighted. A gland located near the penguin’s eyes filter salt from their blood, so that they are able to drink the water while they are swimming and not get sick, and the salt is later expelled out through their nose.[6]

Another interesting thing about the Little penguins is that to find out the gender of the penguin a chromosome test must be completed, since the penguins genitalia is located inside of their body and not on the outside.[7]

Little penguins usually live from seven to eight years. [8]

Reproduction

When penguins mate, they mate for life. Not all penguins are like that, and the blue penguin is a prime example. The mating season for the blues last from July to January. Usually the males will arrive at the nesting grounds before the females so that they can begin to prepare their nest – usually located in burrows - for the females. In the end the females will mate with the male that has the best nest.[9]

Once they have finished with their courtship – which usually is consists of a display of different sounds from the male, from as low as a rumbling to as high as a trumpet, as well as a show of their flippers – the female will either mate with the male for the rest of the season or move onto the next one. A unique habit of the female blue penguins is that they will sometimes look for their mate from the last season. That way she will be certain that she has a mate for the season, and, if he had done it correctly the previous year, a protector for her young.[10]

The average amount of eggs for the female penguin is two or three, depending on the amount of food available – possibly more; each is laid a few days apart from the others. The incubation period for each of the eggs is raged around thirty-six days, during which both the female and male take turns staying and incubating the eggs, while the other goes off for food. They continue with this cycle as the chicks hatch and grow for five weeks. By week seven, the chicks are ready to go off on their own into the ocean, and will return next year to the same place to mate.[11]

The fairy penguin penguin reaches his or her sexual maturity when they are about three years old. [12]

Ecology

Little Penguin at Perth Zoo on Sept 05.

The fairy blues diet is made up of a couple of different things, most of them being small fish, anchovies (found in their native land of Australia), some crustaceans, and squids. To catch their prey, they will dive to about 10 or 20 m, although some of their dives have been recorded as deep as 60m, for an all around average of twenty-four to thirty seconds. When scavenging for food, they tend to stay close to their homes, going usually no more then 25km from land, but some have been known to go as far as 75km. All around the fairy penguin can dive as deep as 60kph. [13]

These little penguins are usually found in New Zealand and Australia. [14]

Penguin parade

The 'penguin parade', found on the Phillip Island - just south-east of Melbourne, is an amazing tourist attraction. The place is surrounded by lights and concrete stands across the water side so that tourists can witness the Little penguins interacting in their natural habitat. About half a million tourists visit the penguin parade a year. [15]

Gallery

References