Snares penguins

Image: Jo Hissock | DOC

Introduction

Confined to the subantarctic Snares Islands, the Snares crested penguin nests in dense colonies under forest.

Highlights

New Zealand status: Endemic
Conservation status: At Risk–Naturally Uncommon
Found in: Snares Islands

Species information: Snares penguin on NZ Birds Online

Snares crested penguin conservation

Snares crested penguins look similar to the Fiordland crested penguins. The Snares penguin bill is very robust, particularly in the male. It also has a prominent area of bare skin at the bill's base, which helps distinguish the Snares from the Fiordland penguin.

Colonies can have up to 1,500 pairs. Snares penguins often roost on branches overhanging the colony, sometimes up to 2 m off the ground.

Did you know?

At three weeks of age, chicks join a crèche while both parents forage for food.

Snares Islands Nature Reserve

Snares penguins are only found on the remote Snares Islands, about 100 km south of Stewart Island. Moulting Snares penguins may occasionally be found on the Otago coast in February and March. 

The Snares Islands are a Nature Reserve and part of the New Zealand Subantarctic World Heritage Area. To protect the islands and their inhabitants, tourist landings are not permitted. Some cruise ships do however visit the islands where the penguins can be observed by boat. 

Snares crested penguin calling, showing tongue. Photo: Rod Morris.
Snares crested penguin calling

The Snares Islands are the only New Zealand subantarctic islands never to have had introduced mammals. Their rodent and cat-free status make them very important for many seabirds.

Snares penguins have a number of natural predators like leopard seals, skua and giant petrels, but the factors most likely to affect the penguin population are climate and food availability - both of which are influenced by man.

Protection and monitoring

DOC works with visitors to the islands to ensure that no plants, animals or insects are accidentally introduced and that human disturbance is limited.

The penguin population is monitored by nest counts every few years. Counting the 25,000 to 30,000 nests takes a small team of workers around 2 weeks to complete.

You can help

If you see moulting Snares and other crested penguins on east-coast South Island beaches, report them to 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Many of these birds are likely to be in poor condition or vulnerable to dog attack.

You can also report penguins outside their normal range to Birds New Zealand.

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