Penguin Species Series #12 - The Erect-crested Penguin
Erect-crested Penguin, Eudyptes sclateri
Coolest Fact: The Erect-crested Penguin is the only penguin species that can raise and lower its crest — that has control of its crest.
Where It’s Found: The Erect-crested Penguin is found almost exclusively on the Antipodes Islands and Bounty Islands (about 420 miles off the South Island of New Zealand)
· IUCN Status: Endangered
· Population: Poorly studied. Estimates in the 1990s suggest about 52,000 pairs on the Antipodes, 27,000 pairs on the Bounty Islands. Those numbers suggest a steep decline over several decades.
· Mating: Unknown if they are monogamous.
· Nesting: No nest; eggs laid on the rocks. Clutch consists of two eggs, with the second egg as the one that will survive.
· Annual Cycle: Winter at sea; arrive at colonies in September; chicks fledge in January.
· Life span: Up to 20 years.
· Food: Has not been studied. Thought to be small fish, squid, krill.
· Threats: Despite large and dramatic declines, little is known about the causes. Climate change is chiefly suspected.
Our First Sighting: November 9, 2014
Bounty Island, New Zealand
My wife Susan and I have had very well-known penguin biologists ask how it is that we managed to see this species of penguin in the wild. In other words, they had not seen them—because they are so remote, so off the beaten path, so extremely difficult to get to. We took a ship that visited all the sub-Antarctic Islands around New Zealand. It was amazing!
The Bounty Islands are just a bunch of rocks in the trackless ocean—yes, named for the ship made famous by “The Mutiny on the Bounty.” The Antipodes—named because they are on the direct opposite side of the globe from London. Often the islands are unapproachable because of storms. We arrived at the Bounty Islands on a rare sunny day, with a soft swell to the sea. It’s forbidden to land on the island.
We rode in Zodiacs, approaching close to the rocky shores and cliffs. It is an astonishing and wild sensation to ride in these little Zodiacs in the middle of the vast ocean. Breeding albatrosses were thick in the air. The islands were loud with screaming penguins. The rocks were covered with breeding, and exceptionally attractive, erect-crested penguins. We could approach them quite close and get wonderful photographs. They won our hearts with their habit of popping their crests straight in the air.
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.”