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Snares penguin

Eudyptes robustus

Photo: Snares penguin
Weights and measures
Height at the shoulder from 50 to 70 cm
Weight from 2,5 to 4 kg
State of endangerment
Animal description
The Snares penguin (Eudyptes robustus) is a captivating species of crested penguin native to the Snares Islands, a small archipelago located to the south of New Zealand. This species is distinguished by its robust build, medium size, and the striking yellow crests that adorn its head, making it one of the more visually distinctive members of the penguin family.

Adult Snares penguins typically reach about 50 to 70 centimeters in height, making them neither the largest nor the smallest of the penguins. Their weight can vary significantly throughout the year due to the demands of breeding and molting, but on average, they weigh around 2.5 to 4 kilograms. One of their most remarkable features is the bright yellow eyebrow stripes that extend from above the eyes towards the back of the head, curving upwards. These crests are more pronounced in males and are thought to play a role in mate attraction.

The body of the Snares penguin is well adapted to its aquatic lifestyle. Their flippers are strong and powerful, enabling them to be agile swimmers capable of reaching speeds up to 25 kilometers per hour when hunting for food. Their diet mainly consists of krill, squid, and small fish, which they catch through skilled and energetic underwater pursuits. The penguins' plumage is dense and waterproof, with a blue-black back and a white front, a coloration that provides camouflage from predators both above and below the water.

Snares penguins are highly social birds, nesting in large, dense colonies on the forest floors of the Snares Islands. They exhibit a remarkable level of fidelity, both to their breeding site and their partner, with many pairs reuniting year after year to breed. The breeding season begins in September when the penguins return to the islands after spending the winter months at sea. They build nests out of twigs, grass, and pebbles, and the female typically lays two eggs. Both parents share the responsibilities of incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks once they hatch. The chicks are covered in fluffy brown down, which they shed for waterproof juvenile plumage before heading out to sea.

The Snares penguin leads a relatively secluded life, with its remote breeding sites being free from major predators. However, they are not entirely without threats. Human activities, particularly fishing, can lead to food shortages, and entanglement in fishing gear is a danger. Additionally, climate change poses a long-term threat by altering the distribution of their prey and potentially affecting the delicate ecosystem of the Snares Islands.

Despite these challenges, the Snares penguin is currently listed as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), primarily due to its restricted breeding range. Conservation efforts are in place to protect their habitat and monitor their population to ensure that these unique and charismatic birds can continue to thrive in their isolated southern sanctuary.
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