Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Bird sighting information. Use this forum to report bird sightings (especially rare and unusual birds), census and field count results, and trip reports. Messages posted to this forum will also be sent as a plain text email to the BIRDING-NZ newsgroup.
Colin Miskelly
Posts: 589
Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 6:31 pm

Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby Colin Miskelly » Tue Jan 31, 2017 10:37 am

Hi all

Wairarapa DOC staff received a call about a ‘yellow-eyed penguin’ on Friday, and a couple of DOC staff saw and photographed the bird over the weekend. It was provisionally identified as an erect-crested penguin, and the image sent to me yesterday for confirmation. I recognised it as an immature rockhopper penguin, but the image was not clear enough to reveal which one of the three species.

It took some time to establish where the bird was, and when the image was taken, but after receiving this info late yesterday, Alan Tennyson and I convinced Maria, Sam and his mate Axel that fish & chips in Featherston followed by a penguin hunt would be a fun evening adventure. However, we failed to do the math (including rush-hour traffic) that would result in us not getting home till 11:30 pm.

We arrived at the site with about 30 min of daylight remaining. It didn’t take long to find the penguin near the water’s edge, and to confirm that it is an immature eastern rockhopper penguin. It is in healthy condition and is just starting its moult.

This is a very notable occurrence, but it is difficult to be precise about how unusual it is. Until about 10-15 years ago, all three rockhopper penguin species were lumped together, and very few of the reports of ‘rockhopper penguins’ from the New Zealand mainland provide images or detail that can separate the three. The eastern rockhopper penguin is the one expected to occur in New Zealand, as it breeds in large numbers on Campbell, Antipodes and Auckland Islands (as well as on Macquarie, Heard, Kerguelen, Crozet, Marion and Prince Edward Islands further west). But the only confirmed record that I know of is a published photograph in the book ‘The seas around New Zealand’, taken at Little Papanui Beach, Otago Peninsula sometime in the early 1970s (the photographer cannot remember when). Other imprecise records of ‘rockhopper penguins’ are all from Otago Peninsula during 1971-77 (possibly only three birds in total, including the published image), and there are older (pre 1955) vague records from Akaroa, Canterbury, Otago Peninsula, and Preservation Inlet. Plus there are two North Island records (one confirmed, one suspected) of Moseley’s rockhopper penguin.

If the RAC accept the record, it will be the first confirmed record of eastern rockhopper penguin from the North Island, and the second confirmed record from the New Zealand mainland (though others may come to light if old photographs turn up).

If you are interested in going to see the bird, please send me a personal email for details. Following discussion with DOC, we prefer not to post details on this public forum, in case this gets picked up by other social media. There is the risk that the bird will be disturbed unduly by large numbers of visitors, and expend excess energy moving around during a stressful time when it cannot go to sea to replenish energy reserves. As long as people keep a respectful distance from the bird (recommended 5 metres), it should be fine left where it is until it completes its moult and returns to the sea.

Cheers
Colin
Wairarapa rockhopper 1 resized.jpg
Wairarapa rockhopper 1 resized.jpg (131.83 KiB) Viewed 1352 times
Wairarapa rockhopper 2 resized.jpg
Wairarapa rockhopper 2 resized.jpg (94.32 KiB) Viewed 1352 times
Colin Miskelly
Posts: 589
Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 6:31 pm

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby Colin Miskelly » Thu Feb 02, 2017 10:34 am

Further delving into OSNZ records reveals at least 16 rockhopper penguin records from Otago between 1937 and 2012, of which two published images are identifiably of eastern rockhopper penguins (taken at Cape Saunders in 1941 by Lance Richdale, and Little Papanui Beach (possibly Feb 1972) by Kim Westerskov). The Richdale image is reproduced in Neville Peat's 2011 book 'Seabird genius'.

There are three records from Canterbury, none currently identified to species (Birdlings Flat 1942, Christchurch 1944, beach-wrecked on North Canterbury coast 1978).

The only previous North Island records are the known and suspected Moseley's rockhopper penguins mentioned above.

Cheers
Colin
User avatar
ledzep
Posts: 639
Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:30 pm
Location: Wellington
Contact:

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby ledzep » Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:43 pm

Dianne and I with two Australian visitors shot over first thing this morning (Thu). We were in the area from 8.30 am - 9.45 am. Quite pleasant over there (unlike the Wellington side of the Rimutaka's) but no sign of the penguin with three pairs of eyes looking. I know others are planning to go down this weekend so hope you have better luck. It may have found a secluded spot amongst the rocks.
User avatar
tim
Posts: 325
Joined: Sat May 15, 2010 7:16 pm
Location: Napier, Hawke's Bay
Contact:

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby tim » Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:28 pm

I was also there this morning and no sign, i also got lost and ended up searching 10 plus kms past the private road and checked rock crops but the weird sighting I cant explain was a wren type bird, light green bobbing, short tail and wing flicks and then it ducked under some rocks and I wasnt able to refind it. I saw it for about 15 seconds and it look 100% like a rock wren I know it sounds silly but it did look like a rock wren.
I also didnt have my camera as I left gear with my son and nana in law when I was doing some spot checking with binos
Tim Rumble
User avatar
tim
Posts: 325
Joined: Sat May 15, 2010 7:16 pm
Location: Napier, Hawke's Bay
Contact:

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby tim » Thu Feb 02, 2017 8:28 pm

I wonder if the bird was spotted in the last stages of its moult rather than starting because the plumage looks pretty good in Colin's photos and it may have needed a few days to waterproof its new feathers
Tim Rumble
Colin Miskelly
Posts: 589
Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 6:31 pm

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby Colin Miskelly » Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:09 pm

Hi Tim

The bird is definitely at the very start of its moult, looking fat and faded, with loose feathers. If at the end of its moult it would be skinny, sleek and blue-black on the back, with a tuft of old feathers on the nape (the hardest area to preen). It will need to be ashore for approx. 3 weeks. But as you will now know from the site, there is a real risk that some concerned citizen has noticed it and 'rescued' the poor sick [sic] penguin.

Cheers
Colin
Colin Miskelly
Posts: 589
Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 6:31 pm

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby Colin Miskelly » Tue Feb 07, 2017 7:57 am

Hi all

The following was sent by Igor Debski late yesterday (I missed it as was at the Birds NZ Wellington branch meeting):

"Bird still there today and moult seems to be progressing rapidly - head is pretty much clear and clumps coming off the back now... Is now a little west of the little bay [where it was previously], so probably out of reach of most disturbance (you have to be quite determined to clamber on those rocks...)."

Cheers
Colin
Colin Miskelly
Posts: 589
Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 6:31 pm

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby Colin Miskelly » Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:25 pm

Hi all

Grace Sharp has provided the following image of the bird (taken on Waitangi Day) to NZ Birds Online and agreed to it being posted here.

Cheers
Colin
Moulting rockhopper compressed.jpg
Moulting rockhopper compressed.jpg (102.71 KiB) Viewed 814 times
Davidthomas
Posts: 761
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:05 am

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby Davidthomas » Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:31 pm

My lord that is one ugly penguin!

Thanks for passing on the news Colin.
Davidthomas
Posts: 761
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:05 am

Re: Wairarapa rockhopper penguin

Postby Davidthomas » Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:32 pm

Bird was present yesterday where it had been seen on Monday by Igor and co. Moult was progressing well with only a few feathers left to be shed on its wings and shoulders.
IMG_9284.JPG
moult progressing well
IMG_9284.JPG (464.11 KiB) Viewed 651 times

Return to “Bird Sightings and Alerts”