2018/2019 a strange season

It all started with the wettest November that the area have had on record for the last 100 years.

Many late breeding penguins got caught out in huge flood, which we believe flooded many of the natural burrows. This forced some parents to abandon their nesting sites leaving their young fluffy chicks to go on walk about around the bay and at sea trying to find food for themselves. And so we started the season caring for many skinny young chicks.
This meant adults didn’t have to return home as there were no chicks to feed and we had less penguins coming ashore in December and early January than we have had in the past.

We thought we would have to close up early the evening penguin tours but a few came home every night so we kept on going right up to February the 16th the night we generally close the evening tours. But that is when we actually started to get better viewing opportunities on the water with more adults coming to moult (changing their feathers).

The Penguins this year started moulting in full swing the 2nd week of February instead of mid-January like usual. They might have had to spend more time at sea fattening up and getting up to weight to start moulting? The food source may have arrived late? …
It’s always hard to know what’s going on out there in our Big Blue backyard but by mid-February there were some very fat penguins in nesting boxes so they eventually found their food.

They seem to be doing better now and are still hanging around which is very strange for this time of the year as usually we don’t have a single penguin left in the bay.

Being marine birds that spend 75% of their time in or on the water they can’t afford to loose feathers like other birds willy-nilly as this would create holes and they wouldn’t be entirely insulated and waterproof. So penguins do it all in one hit. Once a year they fatten up spending an average of 6 weeks gaining enough body weight, almost doubling their size if they can, so they can sit around for an average of 10 days living of their fat reserves moulting, loosing and plucking feathers.

Ben one of our guide was saying one adult was so fat he didn’t know how he even squeezed through his door, it was taking up the whole box, it was a penguin with a double chin.

By the time they finish moulting and have changed their coat, from the dull grey colour of the old dead feathers and replaced them with a new blue coat they potentially have lost up to 50% of their body weight. If they don’t have enough weight on while going through the process they can starve to death and that is why we can end up with some in care at this stage.
We recently were brought a very skinny one, which had washed up on the Akaroa beach. He’s staying with us through the moult and he needed 14 fish anchovies sized every day to get him up to weight.

Here’s a video of some moulting White-flippered penguins pulling out their feathers and it is rather easy to spot and understand the different stages of the moulting process.

Services

  • Pohatu Package
  • Penguin Tours
  • Sea Kayaking Tours
  • Scenic Nature Tours
 

    Follow us

facebook      instagram-946      tripadvisor-128      

Weibo1-125  pinterest
 

 

 

 

Contact Us 

 
icon location Wildside Booking Office,
8/2 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa
7520
New Zealand
icon phone 03 304 8542
icon mobile 021 246 9556
icon mail tours@pohatu.co.nz