At Billabong Zoo, Port Macquarie we have Little Penguins. Little (or Fairy) Penguins are flightless seabirds. They use their modified wings, called flippers, for swimming. Little Penguins are the smallest of all the 17 penguin species; approximately 33cm tall and weigh around 1 kilogram. They are the only penguins with blue and white feathers instead of black and white feathers. Penguins moult once a year to replace their old and worn feathers.
Distribution and habitat
The Little Penguin is the only species of penguin native to Australia. They spend approximately 80% of their lives at sea, returning to land to breed, moult and rest. When ashore they live usually in burrows in social colonies.
They can eat about 30% of their body weight (approx. 300g) of small fish daily such as Anchovies, Red Cod, Pilchards and Squid. They usually travel between 10 to 30 km daily to feed and swim at speeds of between 4 to 9 kph. An average dive in search of fish is between 5 and 20 metres (the deepest dive recorded is 72 metres). Their scientific name, Eudyptula minor, means ‘good little diver’. They can hold their breath for 2 minutes.
Life expectancy and breeding
The average lifespan is 7 years but there have been recorded cases of Little Penguins living to 26 years. They reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years and 2 eggs are usually laid around October, hatching 33 – 37 days later. Chicks leave the nest when they are fully fledged at 7 -9 weeks and head to the ocean to mature.