Fiordland crested penguin
Image: Andrew Walmsley | ©


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

New Zealand status: Endemic
Conservation status: Declining
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.

If you find a dead or injured penguin

If you find a dead penguin, leave it alone. Community groups regularly count dead seabirds and will remove them from beaches.

If a sick penguin is at risk from attack by dogs or other predators, place it under vegetation in the rear-dune well away from people. Or you can take it to a local bird rescue centre.  

Do not give emaciated penguins food. The rehabilitation of seabirds requires specialist knowledge and training.

If a penguin is clearly injured or in immediate danger, contact the emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Try and give the exact location and take photos to help us make an assessment.

Emergency hotline

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

On your property

  • Trap predators on your property.
  • Be a responsible cat owner.

In your community

  • Find and volunteer with your local community group 
  • Trap predators in your community
  • Get kids or schools involved

See Predator Free 2050 Trust - get involved for information.

Visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes

  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines in the water.
  • Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
  • Do not drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.
  • Check for pests if visiting pest-free islands.

With your dog

  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • If you come across wildlife put your dog on a lead and lead it away. 
  • Warn other dog owners at the location.
  • Notify DOC if you see wildlife being harassed by people or dogs.
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Learn about the Lead the Way programme which encourages dog owners to become wildlife wise and know how to act to protect coastal wildlife.

Specific ways to keep wildlife safe while with your dog on beaches.


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 7886
Hours Visitor centre hours and services
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