Penguin with Blue Feet

Penguins are flightless birds only found in the Southern Hemisphere. The most significant concentrations are on the Antarctic coasts and sub-Antarctic islands.

Blue penguins (Eudyptula minor), like all penguins, are often called little or fairy penguins because they are little.

Penguins (Order Spheniciformes) have a short stature, and their plumage can range from light blue to dark brown.

Blue penguins are the tiniest of all penguins, with only one genus, Eudyptula. These Blue penguins’ wings evolved into flippers, which they used to swim.

The eastern Pacific Ocean’s tropical and subtropical zones are home to these birds.

Little blue penguins in terms of length, height, and weight.

Little blue penguins may reach 30 to 33cm in length, 12 to 13 inches in size, and weigh around 1.5 kilos on average (3.3 pounds).

Today, we are going to dive deep and understand – ” penguins with blue feet – appearance, habitat, and why they have blue feet” Are you ready? Let’s go!

What is unique about blue-footed penguins?

The remarkable thing about the little blue penguins is that their paddle-like flippers are excellent for ‘flying’ through the water at the speed of 6km/h. Penguins cannot fly but use their flippers while swimming. 

In addition to this, the names include the fairy penguin and the little blue Penguin. The species is also known as the Korora in the tribal language.

Phillip Island in Australia is home to the world’s largest colony of these blue penguins, with more than 32,000 breeding pairs.

Little blue penguins are seabirds and have well-adapted plumage. Little Penguin is not only the tiniest of all penguins, weighing only a few pounds – 1 kg, but also the only Penguin with blue and white wings.

Is the blue-footed Penguin the world’s tiniest penguin species?

Yes, the little blue or fairy Penguin, Eudyptula minor, native to Southern Australia and New Zealand, is the world’s smallest penguin species.

Another reason for being the smallest species of all penguins is their height, which is not more than 40 cm tall and weighs not more than 1.5 kg. The typical lifetime of these penguins is about six years.

What are the characteristics of blue-footed penguins?

The average length of blue-footed penguins is 25-30m, and they weigh between 1 and 1.5 kilograms (2.2 and 3.3 pounds) across all subspecies. Males are somewhat more extensive and more prolonged than females.

The head and upper body are bluish, with a slate-grey ear covering fades from the chin to the belly and turns white below. Blue is the color of the flippers.

The bill is 3–4 cm long, the delicate iris is silvery-gray or hazel, and the feet are pinkish above with soles and webbing. A young adult will have a shorter beak and a lighter upper body.

These Blue penguins have their eyes on either side of their bill and are orientated to the front, allowing them exceptional binocular vision.

It has a characteristic yellow tint to its eyes, with the male’s pupil being yellower than the female’s.

Blue penguin chicks have black beaks and feet coated in a soft white underbelly. Because blue penguins dive headfirst into the water to catch fish, his nostrils are constantly closed, forcing him to breathe from the corners of his mouth.

Its blue feet, which range from pale turquoise to deep aquamarine, are its most distinguishing trait. The legs of males of these blue-footed penguins are more fragile than females.

What is a blue-footed penguin’s typical habitat?

The small blue Penguin, Eudyptula minor, has breeding colonies throughout southern Australia and New Zealand.

The distribution in Australia stretches as far north as the south coast (including the Bass Strait and Tasmania), near Perth in Western Australia, and as far east as the South Solitary Islands in New South Wales.

Little blue penguins live on New Zealand’s coastlines, the North and South Islands, and the Stewart Islands.

This species likes to spawn on small islands off the shore, although colonies can be established along the mainland where predators cannot reach them.

There is also evidence that tiny blue penguins can reproduce near large cities, where they dwell under building foundations and other structures.

This species breeds at the exact location every year, and when young ones reach sexual maturity, they typically return to the particular site to reproduce.

What are these blue-footed penguins’ behaviors and lifestyles?

These penguins are nocturnal as well as diurnal. During the day, they graze at sea, feed their offspring, and then organize to sleep near the nest at night.

When these creatures return to the beach from the sea, they usually travel in groups to their breeding grounds.

Blue-footed penguins in groups

They cluster in well-organized groups during successful breeding years, escorting a single person and traveling to nest locations. Little blue penguins are wild creatures with distinct calls.

They employ a range of cries in several contexts, including courting, territory guarding, collecting together, displaying aggressiveness, and identifying individuals.

How do these blue-footed penguins forage?

Blue penguins are diurnal, meaning they spend most of their days swimming and foraging in the water, like many other penguin species.

Blue penguins leave their nest at daybreak during the breeding and chick-rearing season, seek food during the day and return to their roost at twilight.

In other words, the colony can be affected by sunlight, moonlight, and artificial light.

Furthermore, increased wind speed reduces foraging for tiny penguin chicks for unexplained reasons. Blue penguins are on a search to keep their feathers dry.

Unlike more prominent species, they can only dive to a depth of 230 feet for around 35 seconds; however, they usually dive to depths of 59 to 102 feet.

They are not migratory birds and spend most of their time around their colonies. These little penguins make quite a racket, particularly at night. It may be a natural defense mechanism to compensate for their tiny stature.

Each Penguin has a distinct sound that sets them apart from the rest. When kept in captivity or surrounded by people, they can become accustomed to human presence and lose their fear.

Who are the predators of the blue-footed penguins?

Blue penguins are apex marine predators that play an essential part in the food web of the marine ecology.

A vital indicator species alerted us to changes in the ocean’s health as their populations changed, seeking such impacts as they ate.

Blue penguins (Eudyptula minor) act as predators and parasite hosts in their ecosystem. Their prey includes squids, small fish, octopuses, and crabs, and their presence impacts these populations.

Local dogs, cats, rats, and other introduced predators eat blue penguin eggs and chicks.

Sharks, seals, and orca whales eat little adult penguins, an essential food supply. Williams, 1995; Hoskins et al., 2008).

In recent years, a new feather mite species, Ingrassia Eudyptula, has been discovered, which could believe in parasitizing blue penguins (Eudyptula minor.) These mite species eat preening oil on the feathers of the Penguin. (Mironov and Proctor, 2008).

What is the best way for blue-footed penguins to reproduce?

Little blue penguins are monogamous, which means they only have one breeding partner.

The breeding season varies, differing on where they live, but it usually lasts from July through December.

Minor blue penguin males achieve sexual maturity after three years, while females need two years.

Blue penguins undertake many courting behaviors to entice each other when they reach sexual maturity. The display consists primarily of making brake noises, remaining stationary, and maintaining a straight head towards the sky.

Male blue penguins demonstrate their wooing behavior. The female blue Penguin does the same thing after picking a partner, participating in copulation.

Blue penguins like to make their nests in caves or the ground. Caves and rock fissures are also popular nesting spots for penguins.

Blue penguins like to make their nests in caves or the ground

The female lays around 1–2 eggs every season, and the incubation period is roughly 31–40 days.

Couples look after their children or chicks and keep them safe from predators. The penguin chicks weigh between 0.08 and 0.10 pounds (36–47 g).

These penguin chicks typically spend more than 60 days with their parents. The chicks weigh roughly 1.7–2.5 lb. (800–1150 g) after the protective period.

How many little blue-footed penguins are there in the world?

Blue-footed penguin species are easy to see in New Zealand and Australia, and according to a 2011 figure, the population of blue penguins was between 350,000-600,000.

But the populace of blue penguins in New Zealand has been declining for a few decades. Experts estimate that the population of tiny penguins will not surpass 1,000,000 by the end of the year. Their decrease is primarily due to human interference and habitat deterioration.

Is the number of blue-footed penguins on the decline?

Today, blue penguins are found mainly on offshore islands where they are more vulnerable to disturbance, which used to be more common in New Zealand.

Some colonies have perished, while others are still on the verge of extinction.

In urban locations, these penguin species develop new territories. Small penguin colonies may be found primarily on offshore islands, safe from predators on land and human interference.

The number and range of these animals decline when their habitats are not protected.

Populations have stayed steady or increased in areas where predator control is in place.

Blue penguins are most likely to be attacked by dogs. They are also prey for cats, ferrets, and stoats.

These threats have increased with more coastal development, the introduction of more dogs, and the evacuation of traditional nesting sites.

Many Blue penguins die crossing coastal roads, being hit by boats, or getting caught in nets.

The iron baron oil spill from Tasmania and the ren oil spill from Tauranga, New Zealand, are major oil spill events that have affected a large population of this species.

How can we assist in the conservation of blue-footed penguins?

Considering that Blue penguins reside both at sea and on land, marine biologists must understand the consequences of marine and terrestrial risks to these birds, including commercial fishing, ingestion of plastic and marine debris, entanglement, oil spills, and climate change.

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 has designated the blue penguin colonies in Manly on Sydney Harbor as an endangered population. The need for a better knowledge of this species is crucial.

Ingrassia Eudyptula, a recently discovered feather mite species, may believe in parasitizing blue penguins (Eudyptula minor).

The preening oil on the little Penguin’s feathers is a food source for these mites (Mironov and Proctor, 2008).

The OEH is studying little penguins and has devised a rehabilitation plan for Manly’s Blue penguins. As no pets sign at the little penguin colony at Manly.

If you are near a small penguin colony, you can help to protect these native seabirds:

  • Never let your cat or dog run loose in locations where the tiny Penguin may have burrows or breeding grounds.
  • If you see blue penguins near the coast, keep your distance – you may be near breeding sites or habitat areas that can easily be disturbed.
  • If you would like to help the research program into blue penguins, contact the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, which has established a fund for research and recovery work for the species.

Is there any economic value in these blue-footed penguins for humans?

Yes, the Penguin Parade of Blue penguins (Eudyptula minor) is a popular tourist attraction.

An estimated 500,000 people visit Phillip Island to observe the penguin colony and the parade every year on and off the ocean. It is from a report published in 2008 and 2009.

Scientists are also interested in this species because of its tiny size and higher energy requirements to thrive, particularly at lower temperatures.

The study of thermoregulation in endotherms requires the use of blue penguins, and the physical properties of penguins allow scientists to utilize this Penguin compared to other endotherms.

Are blue-footed penguins considered threatened by extinction? 

A blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) is not in imminent danger of extinction. The worldwide population of these birds may be approximately 1,000,000 individuals. Their number is declining owing to fewer poachers and oil spills.

Due to the intensification of industrial fisheries, penguins and other fish have low prey densities.

Human development, pollution, and coastline erosion have impacted these birds’ nesting environments.

The white-flippered Penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata) subspecies are currently considered endangered.

Final Thoughts

Blue-footed Penguins can be found only in New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula on the South Island.

The estimated number of blue penguins is more than one million worldwide, mostly found in Australia, despite no formal population count.

On the other hand, the introduction of predators, increased competition for food supplies due to commercial fishing, and habitat fragmentation due to construction and road development have reduced the number of colonies of these blue-footed penguins.

The facts to get cleared with answers are indeed interesting. I hope you got the response to the factual discussion that happened one day with your friends or family where you left the space filled with sheepish smiles.

Image Links:

Blue-footed penguins in groups by Tanya Dropbear / CC BY
Blue penguins like to make their nests in caves or the ground by JJ Harrison / CC BY

Reference Links:

https://animalia.bio/little-blue-penguin

https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/penguins/little-penguin-korora/

https://penguinfoundation.org.au/about-us/species/little-penguin

https://www.marinebio.org/species/little-blue-penguins/eudyptula-minor/

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/382133-smallest-penguin-species

https://bluepenguins.co.nz/blue-penguins

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/native-animal-facts/little-penguin

https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Eudyptula_minor/

David
 

I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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