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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Yellow eyed Penguin or Hoiho are in danger...

The hoiho is the rarest penguin in the world. They need help to survive.

The hoiho is also known as the yellow-eyed penguin.They are native to New Zealnd.

About penguins..... Penguins are one of the most ancient families of birds. They have been on earth for 60 million years. These flightless birds have short, stubby flippers, dense waterproof feathers and a sleek, streamlined shape, making them well adapted for swimming in the cold sub-Antarctic and Antarctic seas, where most species of penguin live.

There are 15 species of penguins and they are all found in the Southern Hemisphere. Only three species breed on mainland New Zealand, the little blue penguin, the Fiordland crested penguin and the yellow-eyed penguin or hoiho.

Facts, facts, facts....

The hoiho is only found in New Zealand, which means it is endemic to New Zealand.
Hoiho is the Maori name for the yellow-eyed penguin. (Sometimes the Maori name 'Tauora' is used too.)

Hoiho is the only penguin with yellow eyes and a yellow band of feathers around its head, so it is called the `Yellow-eyed penguin'.

The scientific name for the hoiho is Megadyptes antipodes, which means 'large southern diver'.

The Maori called this tall handsome penguin hoiho, which means 'noisy shouter', because its piercing call can be heard over the roar of the waves.
The hoiho is a native species. It is endangered and protected - it is against the law to harm or kill a hoiho.

Most penguins nest in crowded, noisy colonies but not the hoiho. Hoiho pairs nest apart from other penguins, so they need a lot more space than other penguins.
Hoiho nest in forest or scrub, sometimes up to 1km from the sea. They can only be found on the south-east coast of New Zealand's South Island and some sub-Antarctic islands.

According to palaentological knowledge, the hoiho is possibly the most ancient species of penguin.

Palaentology is the study of fossils to determine the structure and evolution of extinct animals and plants.

More facts....

Hoiho stay near home all year, except for wandering young birds.
Most penguins return to their nest sites only for the breeding season. Hoiho return to their nest sites most nights.

Hoiho eat a variety of small fish, including red cod, opal fish, sprat and squid.
Hoiho will swim up to 40 kilometres from the shore in search of food. They can dive up to 120 metres deep and can reach speeds of 25 kilometres an hour in the water.
Hoiho come ashore from fishing in the evening, when the sun is setting.
The hoiho grows to be about 60 - 68cm tall.

Hoiho have a grey-blue back, brilliant white front, a bright yellow head band and bright pink webbed feet.

Both male and female adult hoiho have the same colouring.

The hoiho can live to be over 20 years old and will usually stay with the same partner for life.

Nesting and chicks:

The breeding season lasts about 28 weeks, starting in mid-August when mates are chosen. Nests are made in August and September. For hoiho to feel safe, the nest must have a back to it and it must be sheltered from storms and the sun. Nests are made with dried grass and leaves, set against fallen logs, rocks, flax bushes and tree trunks.

The hoiho like to build away from other penguins and sometimes may not even breed if they are within sight of other penguins. For 43 days the parents take turns to sit on the two greenish-white eggs. When the eggs hatch one parent goes fishing while the other minds the chicks. When the fisher comes in from the sea, the parents greet each other with noisy cries and gestures. The hungry chicks have to wait until they have finished saying hello! When at last it's the chicks turn, each thrusts its beak into the parents mouth for the regurgitated meal.

Chicks in danger!

Even though one parent stays with the hoiho chicks throughout the first six weeks, they are still very vulnerable to enemies like ferrets, stoats, dogs and feral cats. The adult hoiho are unable to defend their chicks against such fierce enemies.

The chicks grow quickly. When they are six weeks old, both parents must go fishing to keep them fed. By early March the chicks are as big as their parents. Their downy feathers are gone and they now wear waterproof feathers like an adult, but without the yellow head band. The chicks are now ready to go to sea.
The young birds swim north, wandering as far as 500 kilometres from home. The open sea is dangerous and many young penguins do not come home again.

Meanwhile their parents fatten themselves on small fish and squid before they moult. Adult hoiho moult during March and April. For 3-4 weeks they will not go to sea while their old feathers moult. They lose weight and are vulnerable to predators like stoats - and people! Sometimes when people see a moulting penguin they think it is sick. It is important to leave the penguin alone and not to disturb or hurt the penguin by interfering during its moulting period.

After the moulting period the hoiho have smart new feathers. They can then go fishing and socialise with other hoiho until August when the busy breeding season begins again.

Hoiho are in danger!

Once lush forest came down to the sea and the shouts of the hoiho could be heard along the New Zealand coast. But people came and cut down the forests beside the sea, and brought dogs, cats and ferrets.

Hoiho nest sites are destroyed, they are attacked by dogs, and their chicks are killed by cats, stoats and ferrets. Out at sea hoiho tangle and drown in set nets, or may not be able to find enough fish to eat.

Poor penguins. Their numbers have fallen. Now there are fewer than 700 hoiho in the South Island of New Zealand and only 2000 to 3000 in the main colonies on Campbell and Auckland Islands, with other small populations on Stewart and Codfish Islands. That's all the hoiho in the whole world.

The hoiho are being helped..........

The hoiho is protected because it is an endangered species, which means that it is illegal to kill the hoiho or cause it any harm. Hoiho nesting sites are also being protected and replanted.

Land along the coast where hoiho nest is be replanted with flax and shrubs to make new nesting areas.

Some areas have been fenced along coastal margins to keep out sheep and cattle which trample and destroy hoiho nests.

Predators like wild cats, stoats, ferrets and dogs are being controlled and removed from hoiho nesting areas.

Set nets, which penguins can get caught in, have been banned in some areas to avoid catching dolphins - which helps the hoiho as well.

Land owners are working with conservation organisations to protect hoiho, and hoiho nesting areas on their land.

The Forest and Bird Te Rere Reserve is a protected area, where lots of trees and shrubs are being planted for the hoiho, and hoiho enemies are controlled. Learn more about Te Rere.

In 1987 the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust was formed. It helps protect the Yellow-eyed Penguin and its habitat.

The Department of Conservation staff manage a number of reserves where hoiho live, they study the hoiho and help other organisations and land owners to care for the hoiho and hoiho nesting areas.

Yes! You can help too........ By learning about the hoiho you can help it to survive. You can be a friend of the hoiho by talking to your friends and family about the hoiho and telling them what people should do when they visit a hoiho's home.

If you visit a hoiho nesting area:

Be quiet so you do not scare the hoiho from coming ashore to feed their chicks
Talk quietly and move slowly
Stick to the tracks
Do not go into areas fenced off for penguins
Do not take dogs near hoiho nesting areas
Do not litter
If you see someone doing the wrong thing near hoiho nests call the NZ Department of Conservation.

Acknowledgement and thanks to below:

Conservation resources

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