Natural Foraging and Breeding Behaviours of the Little Blue Penguin Eudyptula minor Including Recommendations for a Captive Population.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
The Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor) belongs to the family Spheniscidae, a distinctive group of flightless, pelagic seabirds that inhabit the Southern hemisphere. The smallest of the penguin species, the Blue Penguin weighs approximately one kilogram, stands around 40 centimetres tall (Stonehouse, 1975), and occurs naturally in southern areas of cooler waters off Australia and New Zealand. Blue Penguins are covered in dense waterproof plumage that ranges in colour from pale power-blue to dark slaty blue-grey on the dorsal side, and white on the ventral side acting as a form of counteractive camouflage. There is ongoing debate as to the number of sub-species that occur within the extents of E. minor. Some experts believe that the White-flippered penguin (E. minor ablosignata) can be considered as a different species, not just as sub-species. These penguins are characterised by the presence of a white margin on both the front and rear sides of the flippers and paler plumage on their backs (Reilly, 1994). The total population of Blue Penguins in Australia and New Zealand has been estimated to be somewhere between 350 000 and 600 000 breeding pairs (Dann, 2006). Although numbers are believed to be stable, there are concerns of decreasing numbers of breeding pairs in certain locations (Dann, 1992). The White-flippered penguin in New Zealand has recently been listed as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as the breeding population is measured to be only 2,200 pairs (Davis & Renner, 2003) and is restricted to parts of Banks Peninsula and Motunau Island off the eastern coast of Canterbury, New Zealand. Threats to the Blue Penguin include predation by introduced species (predominantly foxes and dogs but also cats and stoats in New Zealand) and, locally, human disturbance through residential and farming developments (Reilly, 1994; Williams 1995). Perhaps the most detrimental influences however come from fluctuations in natural oceanic changes. Reilly (1994), states that if large-scale oceanic changes take place, there will be corresponding changes to fish populations, something that we can not deter, especially if the commercial fisheries continue to target the main prey species of Blue Penguins and exploit areas in which they forage. In order to gain an accurate understanding of the long-term viability of the Blue Penguin, it is necessary to look at the breeding biology and foraging behaviours exhibited by this species. By investigating these aspects of the Blue Penguin, we can also make detailed choices in regard to the captive management of the species. This paper aims to detail the breeding biology and foraging behaviours of Eyduptula minor, in Australia and New Zealand, with a more indepth coverage of the subspecies E. minor albosignata. The information highlighted will be used to construct some guidelines that may be considered when housing and breeding the Blue Penguin in a captive situation.