So everyone realsied it was a penguin! And everyone realised it was one of the 3 "crested" penguins: Erect-crested (ECP), Fiordland Crested (FCP) or Snares Crested (SCP) - but which one?? The separation of these 3 species is rather poorly described in the literature, but Brent and I spent quite a bit of time researching the problem a couple of years ago and this is what we came up with:
In FCP, the crest starts near the junction of the latericorn and culminicorn in a triangular area of black feathers above and forward of the gape. The crest which is quite broad (at least one eye width along its entire length) and straight, passes back over the eye at right angles to the base of the bill. The gap between the eye and crest is less than the width of the crest. The crest feathers once past the eye form a drooping set of plumes (just before and during moult these may be rather short and less droopy). When viewed from above the crests form two diverging lines from the bill, on either side of the head. The feathers of the crown and nape lie flat against the head and are not usually spikey in appearance, giving the back of the head a rounded appearance. The lack of bare skin at the base of the bill or a fleshy gape are also diagnostic, and should be evident in the field and in good quality photos. The presence of white cheek feathers can be considered diagnostic, but note that the absence of them does not rule this species out. FCP's also have a relatively small bill, about one third or less of a head length long (with males being at the bigger end of the scale). So this bird isnt a FCP.
In ECP, the crest has a similar broad pattern to it, but differs in starting behind and adjacent to the gape (well below and behind the junction of the latericorn and culminicorn). The crest is broad (at least one eye width along its entire length) and also differs by angling upwards from the bill, in a straight line over the eye. The gap between the eye and the crest is much less than the width of the crest. The crest ends well behind the eye almost on the crown, with an obviously erect set of plumes. The feathers of the crown have a slightly spikey appearance. When viewed from above the crests form two nearly parallel lines on either side of the head. The bare skin at the base of the bill, and the very fleshy gape (which in most pictures is more prominent than in SCP) should also be evident. The colouring of this bare skin is a very cool white, almost with a bluey tint to it. ECP's have a rather robust bill, with it being almost half a head length long (again with males being at the bigger end of the scale).
The SCP, has a very different shaped crest to the other two birds. Its starting point is similar to that of the FCP (near the junction of the latericorn and culminicorn in the triangular area of black feathers above and forward of the gape). However, the crest starts off relatively thin (less than an eye width until at least past the eye where it broadens significantly) curving up over and past the eye. The crest diverges from the bill, and ends further around the nape, and when viewed from above the crests appear to pass around the back of the head, forming a semi-crowned appearance. The feathers of the crown have a definite spikey appearance, and most birds appear to have a very sharp angular shape to the back of the head (nape crown junction). The bare skin at the base of the bill, and the fleshy gape should also be evident. The colouring of this skin is a warmish white, with a pinkey tint to it. The bill is the most robust of the three species, being at least half a head length long.
Key identification features of crested penguins:
FCP No bare skin at base of bill, white cheek feathers (diagnostic when present), crest starts near latericorn/culminicorn junction, crest broad and straight over eye, small bill 1/3 head length.
ECP Bluey white skin at base of bill, crest starts adjacent to the gape, crest broad and angles straight over eye, near parallel crests, medium bill 1/2 head length.
SCP Pinky white skin at base of bill, crest starts near latericorn/culminicorn junction, crest narrow and curves over eye, large bill 1/2 head length.
The pictured bird has pinkish skin at the base of the bill. The crest starts at the latericorn/culminicorn junction. It has a pretty hefty bill. It is a SNARES CRESTED PENGUIN. 13 of the 19 attempts were correct - including Igor and all his close rivals. Thanks to everyone who participated. More to come next month.
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