Getting to know the penguins at Macca

World Penguin Day

Whilst the 25th of April is known as a pretty sombre day for most Australians and it’s definitely a date that should be synonymous with ANZAC Day (that’s why last week’s Icy News was dedicated just to that), but there was another pretty special day celebrated on the 25th of April, World Penguin Day!

Penguins are probably the most adorable and lovable creatures in the world. So, it makes sense that these little guys and girls have their own day. This celebratory day coincides with the annual northern migration of Adélie penguins (my personal favourite) down in Antarctica.

World Penguin Day was created as an educative initiative to encourage everyone to learn more about penguins, their environment, and how important they are to the ecosystem. Here are a few quick facts:

- They are the fastest-swimming and deepest-diving species of bird

- The way penguins swim, often leaping out of the water in shallow arcs, is called “porpoising” and is a behaviour shared by dolphins (and unsurprisingly porpoises). It allows them to breathe more frequently and may even help them evade predators.

- One of the fastest ways penguins travel is by “tobogganing” (sliding on their bellies over the ice). Apparently penguins find this fun too, one of their reasons for doing it!

- A group of penguins is called a “waddle”, when a group of penguins are in the water they are called a “raft” and best of all, a group of penguin chicks is called a “crèche” .

At Macca we have 4 species of penguins that hang out in these parts.

Gentoo Penguins

These little tykes are the third largest penguin species alive. Adults generally weigh about 5–8kg. They have a bright red-orange bill and white eye patches which make them pretty easy to pick out. Their lifespan is generally around 15–20 years.

At Macca these guys litter the beaches and all around the buildings we work in so they are a daily sight. They might even pop their head in if you leave a door open.

Conservation Status: Least Concerned

Southern Rockhopper Penguins

These little rockstars are pretty common on the Island, there are actually some on the rocky point about 200 metres from our mess that love to pose for you. They also hop between rocks.

Southern rockhopper penguins are quite small and weigh only about 2–3.8kg. They have an average lifespan of around 10 years.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Royal Penguins

Royal penguins are endemic to Macquarie Island. Meaning that Macca is the only spot in the world where you will find these little guys. Royals at Macca live in large colonies. The largest colony is down at Herd Point right at the bottom of the island where a couple of us are heading down to this weekend!

Royals weigh 4.2–6.3kg. They live for an average of 15 to 20 years.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

King Penguins

In my opinion, these guys are the prettiest of the penguins. They have real bright coloured orange ear patches and a really cool looking orange bib on their upper chest. They are also super friendly and will always come right over to have a look at you if you sit quietly.

King penguins are the second largest penguin. When the birds arrive at the start of the breeding season they weigh around 10–15kg. Kings can live around 25 years in the wild.

Conservation Status: Least Concerned