Little penguin

The little penguin is the smallest of all penguins that exist on earth. In various literary sources they are found under different names — blue penguin, elf penguin, fabulous penguin. The local population considers the animal to be their symbol, and practically worships it. Scientists and researchers have been closely following these representatives of flora and fauna for a long time, studying their way of life and habits. Zoologists have come to the conclusion that they are characterized by extraordinary energy and mobility, which most penguins do not possess.

View origin and description

Photo: Little Penguin

Photo: Little penguin

The little penguin is a representative of the animal kingdom, the type of chordates, the class of birds, the penguin-like order, the penguin family, the genus and species of little penguins.

The historical homeland of modern blue penguins, like all others, is the southern hemisphere. Archaeologists managed to discover the remains of the ancient ancestors of modern penguins on the territory of modern New Zealand, South America, Africa, the Galapogos Islands.

Video: Little penguin

The most ancient finds indicate that these representatives of flora and fauna existed on earth during the Eocene period, approximately 45-43 million years ago. The ancient ancestors of modern birds had much larger body sizes. The largest representative was described by the zoologist, researcher Norsheld, after whom the penguin was named. His height somewhat exceeded the height of a person, and his body weight was 120 kilograms. Scientists do not exclude that the very first, primitive ancestors of modern penguins existed about 100 million years ago.

Penguins, which existed several tens of millions of years ago, practically did not differ externally from modern individuals. The main difference was that the ancient ancestors of today’s blue penguins could fly. Modern inhabitants of the southern hemisphere have the most similarities with the tube-noses. After a lot of research, scientists came to the conclusion that they could have had common ancestors.

Appearance and features

Photo: Little Blue Penguin

Photo: Little Blue Penguin

The little penguin has a very specific and memorable appearance. Sexual dimorphism in this bird species is not significantly expressed. Males are somewhat larger than females. The average body weight of one adult is 1.3-1.5 kilograms. The length of the body does not exceed 35 centimeters. The body is painted in several colors at once.

The upper part of the head and the back area are painted in dark blue, rather blue. The inner surface of the head, neck and abdomen are painted white. The forelimbs in the process of evolution were transformed into flippers. The average length of the upper limbs is 111-117 millimeters. They are black. It is with the help of these flippers that penguins are able to stay in the water for quite a long time and swim quickly. In the region of the auricles, the body is painted in a dark, almost black color.

Penguins have a small, round head. It has an elongated beak no more than 5 centimeters long and small, round eyes. The iris of birds is hazel or blue with a gray tint. The beak is dark brown, chestnut. The lower limbs are pink above, three-toed. The fingers have thick, sharp, rather long claws. Between the fingers of the lower extremities there are membranes that help the birds swim. The soles of the lower limbs are painted black.

Interesting fact: As individuals grow older, their beak and color of plumage in the back area darken.

The average life expectancy of birds in natural conditions is 6-7 years. In artificial conditions, with enough food and good care, life expectancy can triple. Little penguins, like other representatives of the species, have very dense plumage. The oil layer and subcutaneous fat protect them from the cold. Blue penguins, like all members of this family, have a small rounded tail.

Where does the little penguin live?

Photo: Little penguin in nature

Photo: Little penguin in nature

Populations These amazing birds are distributed in various parts of the southern hemisphere.

Geographic regions of distribution of little penguins:

  • South America;
  • Chile;
  • Australia;
  • Tasmania;
  • New Zealand;
  • Philippines.

A favorite habitat for birds is the territory of the beaches, where it is easier for them to get their own food and hunt for mollusks and crustaceans. To date, information about new bird populations continues to appear in different parts of the southern hemisphere. In some cases, eyewitnesses note that penguins live close to human settlements. A prerequisite for habitat is the presence of a reservoir. Birds live on land, but they are excellent swimmers and forage exclusively in the water.

Blue penguins are predominantly sedentary. They tend to arrange nests in which they hatch chicks. They arrange nests in inaccessible, hidden places – crevices, burrows, caves, in dense thickets of shrubs, under stone formations. Most of the populations live on the territory of the rocky coast, in the savannas, in the bushes.

It is worth noting that penguins spend the vast majority of their personal time in the water. They return to their nests only after dark, so as not to reveal its location to predators. Sometimes, with insufficient food, they can migrate to other regions, sailing quite far from the coast.

Now you know where the little blue penguins live. Let’s see what they eat.

What does little penguin eat?

Photo: Little penguins

Photo: Little penguins

The main food source of little penguins are marine life, mainly fish. They spend most of their time in the water. With the advent of a new day, they go into the water to get their own food and return only in the evening.

What serves as a food base for little penguins:

  • small fish;
  • shellfish;
  • crustaceans;
  • anchovies;
  • octopus;
  • oysters;
  • plankton;
  • sardines.

Due to their size, blue penguins are able to dive to a depth of about two meters. The average duration of immersion under water in this case is about twenty seconds. The record diving of representatives of this species is 35 meters, and the maximum duration under water is 50 seconds.

Animals have good eyesight, which serves as a guide in the underwater kingdom. The streamlined body, the presence of flippers and membranes on the hind limbs allows you to reach speeds of up to 5-6 km/h in pursuit of prey.

Birds are characterized by group hunting. Often at dawn you can see how they plunge into the water in large groups and then come back together. In the water, a few individuals can simply attack a school of swimming fish and grab everyone they can. If fish or shellfish are quite small, penguins eat them right in the water. They pull larger prey onto land and divide it into parts.

Penguins are not afraid of cold and bad weather and feel comfortable in the water even in the cold season. In search of the required amount of food, they can travel several tens of kilometers. Penguins need a large amount of strength and energy for numerous dives, which sometimes require several dozen.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Lesser Blue Penguin

Photo: Lesser Blue Penguin

Elf penguins are believed to be nocturnal birds. However, with the onset of the morning they go to sea and return only late in the evening.

Birds lead a sedentary lifestyle, and, occupying a certain territory, nest and live on it for most of their lives. They are very zealous about protecting their habitat. Before attacking an uninvited guest, a little penguin warns him, and only then attacks. If anyone intrudes into his domain and comes closer than two meters, he spreads his wings and screams loudly, piercingly, warning about the readiness to defend his habitat.

Interesting fact: Despite their small size, little blue penguins are considered very noisy birds. In the process of protecting their habitat, communicating with each other, in pairs, they often make very loud sounds, flapping their wings, etc.

During the period breeding and breeding birds sail from the coastline by an average of 10-13 kilometers and continue to search for food for 9-12 hours. Further than 20 kilometers from the coastline, they almost never move away, except in cases of acute shortage of food. Most often they come ashore from the water already in the dark. So less likely to become victims of predators.

Penguins spend most of their time grooming their plumage. In the tail area there are special glands that secrete fat. Birds lubricate their feathers with it so that they do not get wet in the water.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Little penguin family

Photo: Little penguin family

Males tend to attract females through certain sounds. They stretch their necks, fold their wings behind their backs and make a very lingering sound, similar to a screech. Blue penguins tend to create monogamous, strong and very strong pairs.

The breeding season falls on the summer season and lasts from early June to mid-September. During this period, birds nest, find especially secluded places – in crevices of rocks, under stones, in steep places. In one group, the distance of nests from each other averages 2-2.5 meters. During the period of reproduction and breeding, this distance is significantly reduced.

After pairing and mating, the female lays her eggs in her nest. For one clutch, she lays 1-3 white eggs weighing 50-55 grams. The eggs are then incubated for 30-40 days. Most of the time, the eggs are incubated by the expectant mother. Males change their halves at the post every 3-4 days, so that the females can go to sea and eat.

A month later, chicks emerge from the eggs. Newborn penguins have a mass of 35-50 grams. Their bodies are covered with fluff. They have been in the parental nest for quite a long period of time. For almost a whole month, the female and male provide food for their offspring. Then, gradually, the chicks go with adults to the sea to independently get their own food. Over the next month, the female and male take care of the safety of their offspring.

When newborns reach a weight of about 900-1200 grams, they become independent and ready for independent life. Penguins reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 years. Penguins of this species are characterized by more productive reproduction with increasing age. It is also scientifically proven that the better the penguins are provided with food, the more prolific they will be.

Little Penguin’s Natural Enemies

Photo: Little penguins in nature

Photo: Little penguins in nature

To minimize the risk of predation, penguins go to sea at dawn when it is still dark. They return to their dwelling when the sun has already set and it is already dark. However, despite this, they all have a sufficient number of enemies in natural conditions.

The enemies of penguins include:

  • sharks;
  • seals;
  • killer whales;
  • Pacific gulls;
  • dogs;
  • weasels;
  • rats;
  • foxes;
  • cats;
  • certain types of lizards.

Man and his activities also contribute to the reduction in the number of fairy penguins. The constant pollution of their natural habitat, the release into the seas and oceans of a large amount of various waste, garbage, products of the oil refining industry reduces the territory of their habitat. Birds are very sensitive to pollution of their environment, including water bodies in which they get food for themselves and their offspring.

Fishing on an industrial scale leads to the depletion and impoverishment of the food supply of animals. In search of food, penguins travel considerable distances. The problem of searching for a food base during the breeding season is especially urgent, when adults must feed not only themselves, but also their offspring. A large number of these small, amazing birds live in zoos around the world.

Population and species status

Photo: Little or Blue Penguin

Photo: Little or Blue Penguin

Currently, nothing threatens the number of blue penguins. According to preliminary data, the size of this population is estimated at 1,000,000 individuals. In some regions, there is a regular decrease in individuals, which is caused by attacks of predators and pollution of the natural habitat of birds.

It should be noted that pollution of the coastline with household and other types of garbage contributes to a decrease in the breeding productivity of blue penguins. The result of human activity in the form of pollution of large areas with waste from the oil refining industry leaves fabulous penguins virtually without food.

People show great interest in these extraordinary creatures. Every year, more than half a million tourists visit their natural habitats. Guests and tourists are very impressed by the sight of a noisy crowd of incredibly beautiful birds emerging from the sea at sunset and wandering to their nests. In some cases, blue penguins become victims of poachers who catch birds in order to sell them on the black market.

Zoologists have found that the little penguin may well exist as pets, as well as in nurseries and national parks. The average life expectancy of these birds is 7-8 years. When kept in optimal conditions with enough food, life expectancy is almost tripled.

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