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Penguin Species Series #8 - The Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Southern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome

Coolest Fact: Rockhopper penguins are the only species with the red eye. The southern rockhopper is also the smallest of the crested penguins.

Where It’s Found: Falkland Islands / Las Malvinas, Tierra del Fuego, eastern sub-Antarctic islands (likely to be split soon into separate species)

Crucial Facts:

· IUCN Status: Vulnerable

· Population: estimated at 1.2 million pairs, declining by 34% in recent decades

· Mating: about half the rockhoppers on Macquarie Island are monogamous

· Nesting: nests made of stones; typically 2 eggs

· Annual Cycle: Return from winter at sea to nest in colonies, some on high cliffs

· Life span: up to 30 years in captivity

· Food: fish, crustaceans, squid

· Threats: fisheries in Southern Ocean, climate change

Our First Sighting: November 3, 2009

Sea Lion Island, the Falkland Island (Las Malvinas)

Our Story:

Rockhopper penguins are among the most delightful penguins. They have amazing red eyes and that wonderful crest—a vibrant eyebrow that ends in dangling yellow feathers. Rockhoppers were recently split into two species, southern and northern rockhoppers. The southern rockhoppers in the east (New Zealand sub-Antarctic Islands, Macquarie Island, and others) will likely soon be split into its own species (eastern rockhoppers).

We saw our first southern rockhoppers on Sea Lion Island in the Falkland Islands. The colony there nests on a sheer, tall cliff. My wife Susan and I were astonished as we watched rockhoppers climb up the rocky face, digging their claws into the stone as they hopped upward. Thousands of generations of penguins have dug deep grooves in the stone from their climbs up. Sometimes they fall, tumbling down the stone cliff. They bounce back and start the climb towards their nest again.

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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