This species has been classified as Vulnerable owing to rapid population declines, which, although they have been on-going for perhaps a century, appear to have worsened in recent years.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Eudyptes chrysocome (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into E. chrysocome and E. moseleyi following Jouventin et al. (2006) on the basis of clear morphological, vocal and genetic terms, and this treatment has been accepted here following a review by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group. However, although E. filholi has been proposed as a split from E. chrysocome by Banks et al. (2006), both the sample sizes and the degree of morphological difference are small and this view is not accepted here.
Distribution and populationEudyptes chrysocome
Identification. 55 cm. Average weight of 3.35 kg. A robust body with white underparts and slate-grey upperparts. Distinctive red eyes and a short reddish brown bill. A straight yellow eyebrow ending in sideways projecting plumes extends above the eye. Similar species. The Southern Rockhopper Penguins differ from their Northern counterparts in having a narrower supercilium and shorter plumes, which reach just over the black throat. Immature birds have only a narrow supercilium and a pale mottled grey chin.
breeds on islands located in the South Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, ranging from 46º S in the South Atlantic Ocean and South Indian Oceans to Macquarie Island at 54ºS in the Southern Ocean.
The species occurs as two subspecies. E. c. chrysocome
breeds on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
, at 55 distinct breeding colonies (total of 210,418 breeding pairs in 2005), and a number of offshore islands in southern Argentina
(Isla de los Estados: 173,793 pairs in 1998, Isla Pinguino: 501 pairs in 2007, Isla Ildefonso: 86,400 pairs in 2006, Diego Ramirez: 132,721 pairs in 2002, Isla Noir: 158,200 pairs in 2005, Isla Barnevelt: 10,800 pairs in 1992, Cape Horn: 600 pairs in 1992, Isla Terhalten: 1,000 pairs in 2005 and Isla Buenaventura: 500 pairs in 1992 [Shiavini et al.
2005, BirdLife International 2010]). Subspecies E. c. filholi
breeds on Prince Edward: 38,000 pairs in 2008/2009 and Marion Islands: 42,000 pairs in 2008/2009 (South Africa
) (Crawford et al
. 2009), Crozet Islands: 152,800 pairs in 1982, Kerguelen Islands: 85,500 pairs in 1985 (French Southern Territories
), Heard Island: 10,000 pairs in 1987 (Heard and McDonald Islands [to Australia
]), Macquarie Island: 37,500 pairs in 2007 (Australia) and Campbell: 51,000 pairs in 1986, Auckland and Antipodes Islands (New Zealand
). Other than the populations in Chile and Argentina, which may have increased (Oeler et al
. 2008), all other subpopulations have undergone severe declines (Ellis et al.
1998): for example, approximately 1.5 million pairs are estimated to have been lost from Campbell Island (94% of the original total) between 1942 and 1986 (Cunningham and Moors 1994, Huin 2007), and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) population fell by around 1.4 million pairs between 1932 and 2005 (87% of the original total) (Pütz et al
. 2003). Several other sites appear to have suffered severe declines (of more than 40%) between the 1970s and the 1990s: Marion Island (Crawford et al
. 2003), Antipodes Islands and Auckland Islands (Ellis et al
. 1998). Population modelling, based on those breeding sites that have been accurately surveyed, indicates that over the past 37 years (three generations) the number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins has declined by 34% (BirdLife International 2010).Population justification
The population is estimated at just over 1.23 million pairs (Birdlife International 2010). The Falkland Islands (Malvinas), with 55 distinct breeding colonies, had a total of 210,418 breeding pairs in 2005. Isla de los Estados (Argentina) had 173,793 in 1998. In Chile, there are large colonies on Isla Diego Ramirez (132,721 pairs in 2002), Isla Noir (158,200 pairs in 2005) and Isla Ildefonso (86,400 pairs in 2006). In the Indian Ocean there are populations on the Prince Edward Islands (80,000 pairs in 2008/2009 [Crawford et al
. 2009]) (South Africa), Crozet Islands (152,800 pairs in 1982), Kerguelen Islands (85,500 pairs in 1985) (French Southern Territories) and Heard Island (10,000 pairs in 1987) (Heard and McDonald Islands [to Australia]). There are also significant populations on Campbell Island (51,000 pairs in 1986) (New Zealand) and Macquarie (37,500 pairs in 2007) (Australia) (BirdLife International 2010). Several populations have experienced major long-term population crashes. Approximately 1.5 million pairs are estimated to have been lost from Campbell Island (94% of the original total) between 1942 and 1986 (Cunningham and Moors 1994), and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) population fell by around 1.4 million pairs between 1932 and 2005 (87% of the original total) (Pütz et al
. 2003). Several other sites appear to have suffered severe declines. Between 1994/1995 and 2008/2009, numbers at Marion Island decreased by about 70%, from 160,000 pairs to 42 000 pairs (Crawford et al
. 2009). Population modelling, based on those breeding sites that have been accurately surveyed, indicates that over the past 37 years (three generations) the number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins has declined by 34% (BirdLife International 2010).Trend justification
A decline of 30.8% over the last three generations (30 years), as calculated from survey data, has been driven largely by the declines in the Falklands (where data are most complete), and to a lesser extent, Marion Island. The Falklands declines may be even steeper: using the less uncertain 2000 estimate (instead of 1995) requires greater extrapolation, but this would yield an overall decline of 55.2%. Ecology
This species returns to its breeding colonies in October, which range from sea-level sites to cliff-tops, and sometimes inland. Two eggs are laid and incubated during November and December for 32-34 days. In February, the chicks fledge and depart the colony (BirdLife International 2010). At most breeding sites, only one chick is fledged by each successful pair. However, there is some evidence that it is not unusual for those in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) to raise two chicks (Clausen and Pütz 2002). They are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods (Williams 1995)
It is not yet clear what is driving current population declines. Egg collection was common at some colonies until the 1950s, such as in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), but is now prohibited. Penguins were taken historically as bait for use in crab pots at a number of sites, including some Chilean islands (Ryan and Cooper 1991, P. G. Ryan in litt.
1999). The disappearance of the colony on Isla Recalada in Chile indicates that human depredation, in this case the collection of zoological specimens and as bait for crab pots (Oehler et al.
2007), is still a serious threat to colonies where sites are not well protected and are accessible. The number of birds taken in recent years from other Chilean colonies is less than 500 individuals per year (BirdLife International 2010). At some sites, introduced grazing animals have caused significant vegetation loss and at Macquarie Island, overgrazing by rabbits has led to serious landslips. The effect of grazing by goats and deer at Isla de los Estados is not known and should be investigated. There are very few records of disease outbreaks, although few colonies are visited regularly. Avian cholera has caused deaths of a small number of adults and chicks at Campbell Island in 1985/86 (de Lisle et al
. 1990). The massive mortality event on the Falklands in 2002/2003 was due to a Harmful Algal Bloom (Uhart et al
. 2007). The number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins affected by oil pollution is currently not thought to be as great as in the past, when 40,000 Magellanic Penguins Spheniscus magellanicus
were estimated to be contaminated annually in Argentina (Gandini et al
. 1994). In Patagonian coastal waters, hydrocarbon exploitation is a threat (Ellis et al
. 1998). Other important factors include interactions with fisheries, the effects of climate change, for example in causing a drop in primary productivity that reduces prey availability or causing bottom-up food web shifts that reduce prey availability, top-down changes in food web structure leading to increased inter-specific competition and top-down changes in food web structure leading to increased secondary predation. For example, one possible ‘top-down’ effect on the eudyptid penguins is competition with (and predation by) rapidly increasing pinniped—especially fur seal—populations (Barlow et al
. 2002).Conservation actions underway
Regular monitoring is undertaken on the Falklands, Marion, and Campbell Islands (Cuthbert and Sommer 2004, Cuthbert and Sommer in press). Several ecological and demographic studies have been undertaken (Ellis et al.
1998, Guinard et al.
1998). Marion islands with breeding colonies are reserves. Research has attempted to determine the cause of historic declines using stable isotope analysis of museum skins (G. Hilton et al
. 2006). An International Species Action Plan and a series of Regional Action Plans have been developed (BirdLife International 2010).Conservation actions proposed
Continue or start to monitor all populations, in order to assess trends (Guinard et al
. 1998, BirdLife International 2010). Conduct long-term demographic studies to understand the causes of the current decline (BirdLife International 2010). Conduct research into spatial and temporal links between population trends, sea-surface temperature and primary productivity (BirdLife International 2010). Investigate the possible impact of oil exploitation (Guinard et al
. 1998). Conduct studies to assess interactions with commercial fisheries (Ellis et al
. 1998). Study the potential impacts of climate change. Assess the threat from introduced predators. Reduce disturbance from ecotourism through the use of codes of conduct.
Ryan, P. G.; Cooper, J. 1991. Rockhopper Penguins and other marine life threatened by driftnet fisheries at Tristan da Cunha. Oryx 25: 76-79.
Gandini, P.; Boersma, P. D.; Frere, E.; Gandini, M.; Holik, T.; Lichtschein, V. 1994. Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) affected by chronic petroleum pollution along coast of Chubut, Argentina. The Auk 111: 20-27.
Cunningham, D. M.; Moors, P. J. 1994. The decline of Rockhopper Penguins Eudyptes chrysocome at Campbell Island, Southern Ocean and the influence of rising sea temperatures. Emu 94: 27-36.
Williams, T. D. 1995. The penguins Spheniscidae. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Guinard, E.; Weimerskirch, H.; Jouventin, P. 1998. Population changes and demography of the northern Rockhopper Penguin on Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands. Colonial Waterbirds 21: 222-228.
Pütz, K. 1998. Where do Falkland penguins go in winter? Warrah 14: 6-7.
Ellis, S.; Croxall, J. P.; Cooper, J. 1998. Penguin conservation assessment and management plan: report from the workshop held 8-9 September 1996, Cape Town, South Africa. IUCN/SSC, Apple Valley, USA.
Crawford, R. J. M.; Cooper, J.; Dyer, B. M.; Greyling, M.; Klages, N. T. W.; Ryan, P. G.; Petersen, S.; Underhill, L. G.; Upfold, L.; Wilkinson, W.; de Villiers, M.; du Plessis, S.; du Toit, M.; Leshoro, T. M.;…authors continued in notes. 2003. Populations of surface nesting seabirds at Marion Island, 1994/95-2002/03. African Journal of Marine Science 25: 427-440.
Pütz, K.; Clausen, A. P.; Huin, N.; Croxall, J. P. 2003. Re-evaluation of historical Rockhopper Penguin population data in the Falkland Islands. Waterbirds 26: 169-175.
Cuthbert, R. and Sommer, S. E. 2004. Gough Island bird monitoring manual. RSPB Research Report.
Hilton, G. M., Thompson, D. R., Sagar, P. M., Cuthbert, R. J., Cherel, Y. and Bury, S. J. 2006. A stable isotopic investigation into the causes of decline in a sub-Antarctic predator, the rockhopper penguin Eudyptes chrysocome. Global Change Biology 12(4): 611-625.
Jouventin, P.; Cuthbert, R.J.; Ottvall, R. 2006. Genetic isolation and divergence in sexual traits: evidence for the Northern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes moseleyi being a sibling species. Molecular Ecology 15(11): 3413-3423.
BirdLife International. 2010. Rockhopper Penguins: a plan for research and conservation action to investigate and address population changes. Proceedings of an International Workshop, Edinburgh, 3-5 June 2008.
Huin, N. 2007. Falkland Islands penguin census 2005/06.
Oehler, D. A.; Fry, W. R.; Weakley Jr, L. A.; Marin, M. 2007. Rockhopper and Macaroni Penguin colonies absent from Isla Recalada, Chile. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119(3): 502-506.
Oehler, D. A.; Pelikan, S.; Fry, W. R.; Weakley, L., Jr.; Kusch, A.; Marin, M. 2008. Status of Crested Penguin (Eudyptes spp.) populations on three islands in southern Chile. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120(3): 575-581.
Shiavini, A.; Yorio, P.; Gandini, P.; Rey, A. R.; Boersma, P. D. 2005. Los Pinguinos de las costas argentinas: estado poblacional y conservacion. Hornero 20: 5-23.
Crawford, R. J. M.; Whittington, P. A.; Upfold, L.; Ryan, P. G.; Petersen, S. L.; Dyer, B. M.; Cooper, J. 2009. Recent trends in numbers of four species of penguins at the Prince Edward Islands. African Journal of Marine Science 31(3): 419-426.
Uhart, M., C. Marull, W. Karesh, R. Cook, R. Quintana, R. Frere, P. Gandini, R. Wilson and N. Huin. 2007. Exposure to infectious diseases in Magellanic penguins from Patagonia and the Falklands: A summary for the last decade. . 6th International Penguin Conference, Australia.
Clausen, A. and K. Pütz. 2002. Recent trends in diet composition and productivity of gentoo, Magellanic and rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 12: 51-61.
Barlow, K. E., Boyd, I. L., Croxall, J. P., Reid, K., Staniland, I. J. and Brierley, A. S. 2002. Are penguins and seals in competition for Antarctic krill at South Georgia? Marine Biology 140: 205-213.
de Lisle, G. W., Stanislawek, W. L. and Moors, P. J. 1990. Pasteurella multocida infections in rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) from Campbell Island, New Zealand. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 26: 283-285.
Further web sources of information
Hear sounds for this species from xeno-canto, the community database of shared bird sounds from around the world.
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Allinson, T, Benstead, P., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Taylor, J.
Gales, R., Hilton, G., Huin, N., Kirkwood, R., Moore, P., Raya-Rey, A., Schiavini, A.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Eudyptes chrysocome. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 19/06/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 19/06/2013.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
Additional resources for this species