Snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus)

Also known as: Snares Islands penguin, Snares penguin
GenusEudyptes (1)
SizeSize: 56 - 73 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

This medium-sized species has the immediately recogniseable pattern of most penguins of snowy-white underparts and dark blue-black upperparts, head and throat. The Snares crested penguin’s most noticeable feature is a bright yellow, thin, bushy crest running above and behind each eye (3). The red-brown bill is very robust, particularly in the male, and the conspicuous bare pink skin at its base helps distinguish the Snares from the similar Fiordland penguin (E. pachyrhynchus) (4).

Breeding is confined to the Snares Islands off southern New Zealand, but the wintering range is largely unknown, although occasional records exist from the waters off Tasmania and South Australia (3).

Nests are typically constructed in dense colonies in muddy, forested areas and on rocky slopes, with these colonies often shifting to new sites as the vegetation is killed off by breeding and nesting activities (2).

Breeding begins around the age of six (4) (5), with males returning to the breeding colony in August, and females following shortly after (4). Single males attract females by standing upright with their wings extended and repeatedly pumping their chest. Nests are shallow dug holes in the ground, lined with twigs and small branches, usually built under trees and shrubs to shield it from the sun (5). Two eggs are typically laid in late September to early October, the first, smaller egg being laid four to five days before the second, larger egg (4) (5). Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for the first 10 days, after which the male goes to the ocean to feed while the female incubates the eggs for 12 days straight and then vice versa. A mutual display of bowing and trumpeting (extending the beak vertically in the air and calling out) is performed when the male returns to the nest, helping to cement the bond (5). For the first three weeks after hatching, the male stands guard, protecting the chicks from predators, while the female forages and returns daily to feed the young (4) (5) (6). As with most penguins, both chicks rarely survive, with many pairs losing an egg during incubation, or one chick usually dying before the end of the guard stage. After the guard stage, the chick begins to explore its surroundings, creching with other nearby chicks, but returning to the nest to be fed. At 11 weeks the young fledge (4).

Little has been recorded on the diet of the Snares crested penguin, but krill, squid and fish are known to be included (3) (5).

Although no major threats currently face the Snares crested penguin, the species is considered vulnerable due to its breeding population being confined to one small island group (3). The Snares Islands are completely free of introduced predators and any accidental introduction could be disastrous (3) (4). Additionally, waters surrounding these islands are the target of a large squid fishery, which may be reducing the penguin’s available prey. Other related species within the region, notably the erect-crested penguin (E. sclateri) and rockhopper penguin (E. chrysocome), are known to be undergoing major declines, possibly due to oceanic warming and the resultant redistribution of prey species (3).

Due to concern about the accidental introduction of predators, the Snares Islands have been designated as nature reserves and part of a World Heritage Site, with landing by permit only (3) (4) (7). This species is also protected by the New Zealand government (7).

For more information on the Snares crested penguin see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN (November, 2006)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World – Ostrich to Ducks. Vol. 1. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (November, 2006)
  4. International Penguin Conservation Working Group (IPCWG) (November, 2006)
  5. Animal Diversity Web (November, 2006)
  6. New Zealand Penguins (November, 2006)
  7. MarineBio (November, 2006)