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Snares Penguin Eudyptes robustus

This species is classified as Vulnerable because it is restricted to one extremely small island group and hence is susceptible to stochastic events and human activities. Population trends are not clear, but if it is shown to be undergoing any decline, as is happening in some congeners, the species should be uplisted to Critically Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

60 cm. Medium-sized, yellow-crested, black-and-white penguin. Dark blue-black upperparts, head, neck. White underparts. Bright yellow, thin stripe from above eye to form drooping, bushy crest behind eye. Bare pink skin at base of large red-brown bill. Similar spp. Erect-crested Penguin E. sclateri is taller with erectile, bushy crests. Fiordland Penguin E. pachyrhynchus lacks pink bare skin at base of bill, crest feathers usually shorter, whitish stripes often on cheeks.

Distribution and population
Eudyptes robustus breeds on the Snares Islands (3 km2), 200 km south of New Zealand. The population was estimated at 23,250 breeding pairs in 1985-1986; 19,000 on North-East Island, 3,500 on Broughton and 750 on the Western Chain islets. In 2000, 25,861 pairs were counted on North-East Island and 4,000 on Broughton (Amey et al. 2001). The 2008 survey produced counts of 21,819 nests on North-East Island and 4,234 nests on Broughton, suggesting that the species had experienced a poor breeding year in line with that observed in the other seabird species present; a repeat survey in 2010 found 25,905 nests on North-East Island and 5,161 nests on Broughton (J. Hiscock in litt. 2012). The population is considered stable (J. Hiscock in litt. 2012). The wintering range is largely unknown, although occasional records from the waters off Tasmania and South Australia suggest a movement towards Australia (D. Houston in litt. 2008).

Population justification
A survey in 2010 found 25,905 nests on North-East Island and 5,161 nests on Broughton (J. Hiscock in litt. 2012), suggesting that there are c.31,000 pairs, or c.62,000 mature individuals. This is assumed to equate to a total population of c.93,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Surveys suggest that the population is stable or perhaps increasing (Amey et al. 2001, Mattern et al. 2009, J. Hiscock in litt. 2012).

It nests in dense colonies, of usually between 50 and 500 pairs (mean 200, range 1-1,305 [Department of Conservation unpubl. data]), mostly under the forest on North-East Island, but otherwise in the open (P. J. McClelland in litt. 1999, J. Hiscock in litt. 2012). Chicks are fed on krill (60%), fish (30%) and squid (10%), and that there are indications that fish and squid play a more important role in the diet of adults (Mattern et al. 2009). In the breeding season, the species forages predominantly in the Subtropical Convergence Zone during the incubation period and within a 50-km radius to the north of the Snares Islands after hatching (Mattern 2012). It may first breed at four years of age and the oldest known bird lived to 20 years (Heather and Robertson 1997). The yellow crest of the species may serve as a condition-dependent indicator to conspecifics, thus potentially a signal of social status or attractiveness (McGraw et al. 2009).

The main threats are commercial fisheries, oceanographic changes, and oil spills (Mattern 2012). There are no introduced predators on the Snares Islands and consequently the possibility of the accidental introduction of mammals is a continual concern (B. D. Bell verbally 1993). The Snares Islands are the site of a large squid fishery, which may be in competition with the species (Ellis et al. 1998). Other Eudyptes species in the region are presently undergoing major declines (E. sclateri, E. chrysocome), perhaps due to oceanic warming and the associated change in distribution of prey species (Ellis et al. 1998).

Conservation Actions Underway
The islands are nature reserves and part of a World Heritage Site declared in 1998. Landing is by permit only (D. Houston in litt. 2008). Conservation Actions Proposed
Census all breeding colonies during incubation period. Complete regular counts every 10 years to monitor trends in the population (Taylor 2000). Turn World Heritage Site territorial seas (out to 12 nautical miles) into a marine reserve and restrict all fishing (B. Weeber in litt. 2000).

Amey, J. M., McAllister, A. K., Houston, D. M. and Tennyson, A. J. D. 2001. Census of the Snares crested penguin breeding population. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 28(4): 432–433.

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.

Heather, B. D.; Robertson, H. A. 1997. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 1: ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Mattern, T. 2012. Snares Penguin Eudyptes robustus. In: García Borboroglu, P. G. and Boersma P. D. (eds), Biology and Conservation of the World’s penguins, University of Washington Press, Seattle U.S.A.

Mattern, T.; Houston, D.; Lalas, C.; Setiawan, A. N.; Davis, L. S. 2009. Diet composition, continuity in prey availability and marine habitat - keystones to population stability in the Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus). Emu 109: 204-213.

McGraw, K. J.; Massaro, M.; Rivers, T. J.; Mattern, T. 2009. Annual, sexual, size- and condition-related variation in the colour and fluorescent pigment content of yellow crest-feathers in Snares Penguins (Eudyptes robustus). Emu 109(2): 93-99.

Taylor, G. A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

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Text account compilers
Allinson, T, Benstead, P., Calvert, R., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Taylor, J.

Bell, B., Hiscock, J., Houston, D., Mattern, T., McClelland, P., Weeber, B.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Eudyptes robustus. Downloaded from on 22/10/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2014.

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.

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Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Spheniscidae (Penguins)
Species name author Oliver, 1953
Population size 62000 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 3 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species