Fiordland crested penguin
PHOTO: Andrew Walmsley ©

Introduction

The Fiordland crested penguin or tawaki, is one of the rarest of New Zealand’s mainland penguins.

Highlights

New Zealand status: Endemic
Conservation status: Threatened (Nationally Vulnerable)
Threats: Dogs, human disturbance, climate changes

Species information: Fiordland penguins on NZ Birds Online

Did you know?

Two eggs are laid – the first is smaller than the second, and they are laid 3-6 days apart.

Fiordland crested penguin conservation

The current tawaki population is between 2,500 and 3,000 breeding pairs and has been in decline since the 1950s.

Human disturbance and predation

Tawaki are highly susceptible to human disturbance when nesting. There is a concern that increased nature tourism in South Westland and Fiordland may disturb breeding birds and cause nests to fail.

Stoats and dogs pose a serious risk to tawaki colonies. Stoats prey on both chicks and sick or injured adults, while a single dog has the potential to wipe out an entire colony.

Spotting tawaki

You can spot tawaki at Munro Beach, near Lake Moeraki 30 km north of Haast. A walking track leads from Lake Moeraki to the beach, and guided tours are conducted from the Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. Tawaki can also be seen in Milford Sound and at Jackson Bay.

The best time of year to see tawaki is during the breeding season from July to November. They can sometimes be seen during the moulting season from mid-January to early March.

Tawaki are very timid, so do not approach birds, nests or areas of beach where penguin tracks are common.

You can help

Keep our penguins safe

  • Leave penguins alone. Usually scruffy birds are simply moulting.
  • Put your dog on a leash around penguin areas.
  • Keep your dog away from nests, and warn others nearby of the location.
  • Donate your time or money to help penguin protection groups, such as the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust and Forest & Bird.
Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife. 

Help protect our native birds

When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Follow the water care code.
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
Other ways to help
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at dusk/dawn and at night.

Contact

For more information about the Fiordland crested penguin/tawaki contact:

Awarua / Haast Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 750 0809
Address:   Haast Junction
Corner SH6 and Jackson Bay Road
Haast
South Westland
Email:   haastvc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
 
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