Snares Penguin, Eudyptes robustus
Coolest Fact: Snares penguins are distinguished from Fiordland penguins by the lack of white stripes on the cheeks. Debate continues on whether Snares and Fiordland penguins are separate species.
Where It’s Found: Snares Islands, New Zealand.
· IUCN Status: Vulnerable.
· Population: Quite recent counts found 30,187 breeding pairs. The population is considered stable.
· Mating: Not known if they are monogamous, but thought to keep same mates year-to-year.
· Nesting: In daisy tree forests or on open ground, with a clutch of two eggs.
· Annual Cycle: Come ashore to breed in September, lay eggs; males go to sea for 10-14 days, return more-or-less at the same time. Females go to sea for a week, return to hatching eggs. Both eggs hatch 60% of the time, but the first chick usually dies within a week.
· Life span: About 11 years.
· Food: Krill, small fish, squid.
· Threats: Very local nature of their range—only on Snares Islands—make them especially vulnerable to disastrous events such as oil spills.
Our First Sighting: December 9, 2014
Snares Island, New Zealand
We arrived at Snares Islands in gale force winds. Our expedition leaders abandoned all hope of lowering the Zodiacs. Instead, the captain had the ship stand off the island while everyone crammed into the bridge to try for glimpses of the Snares Penguins.
The islands are notorious for their dangerous and stormy weather. They are a trap or “snare” for ships off the south tip of New Zealand’s main islands, famous for shipwrecks. Some people in the bridge had quick glimpses of penguins swimming in the huge waves. Susan and I managed glimpses of small white birds ashore.
Binoculars were useless in such wild and bouncing seas, and photographs were impossible. The guides assured us they were Snares Penguins. In 2019 we returned to the Snares Islands (as well as Auckland, Campbell, and Macquarie Islands) to try to get better sightings and photos of this species. This time we were blessed with a glorious day at the Snares. No wind, sunshine, and large slow swells on the sea enabled us to tour the islands from Zodiacs. The Snares Penguins are especially adept at swimming in the rough surf that pounds the rocky island.
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.”