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Penguin Species Series #11 - The Fiordland Penguin

Guest Blogger - Charles Bergman


Fiordland Penguin, Eudyptes pachyrynchus

Coolest Fact: The Fiordland Penguin is the only penguin species to nest in forests.

Where It’s Found: The Fiordland Penguin’s breeding range is confined to the temperate rainforest of the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island.

Crucial Facts:

· IUCN Status: Vulnerable.

· Population: One of the least studied penguin species. About 2500 breeding pairs. Believed to be in rapid decline.

· Mating: Tend to be monogamous. Pairs failing to raise a chick often break up next season.

· Nesting: In roots and trunks of trees, cliff. Clutch consists of two eggs, though usually only one chick is raised.

· Annual Cycle: Return to breeding sites by mid-June. Leave for austral winter at sea by early December.

· Life span: Up to 20 years.

· Food: Little is known about this species’ preferred prey. While breeding, chiefly squid and krill.

· Threats: Climate change and associated warming of oceans and changes in ocean productivity have caused significant population declines in last century.

Our First Sighting: November 21, 2014

South Island, New Zealand

Our Story:

Susan and I had our first glimpse of Fiordland Penguins in a heavy rainstorm. To the New Zealand Maori, Fiordland Penguins were closely associated with heavy rains and lightning. These penguins are endemic to the South Island of New Zealand and are a species of significant cultural and spiritual value to the Maori.


They called this penguin Tawaki, a figure from ancient legends and myth. Tawaki was a god that walked, unrecognized, on earth in human form. When Tawaki ascended a hill, he threw off his clothes and put on thunder and lightning. The penguin’s yellow crest may be associated with lightning. Also, Tawaki stomped his feet, cracking the crystal floor of heaven, bringing down the heavy rains that flooded the fiordland and the rainforest where Tawaki is found. I love the idea that Tawaki—the bird that has the human shape—encloses the unrecognized god of the region.


This new penguin series includes stories, information, and photos not yet published. Read about our quest to see all 18 of the world’s penguin species in my book “Every Penguin in the World.”


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