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Royal Penguin Eudyptes schlegeli

This species has a large population which is currently thought to be stable, it is confined to just three islands all in close proximity and as such it is susceptible to the effects of human activities or stochastic events. However there are currently no obvious threats that could result in the species qualifying for Critically Endangered in a short time period. The species is therefore classified as Near Threatened as it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criterion D2.

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.

65-75 cm. Large, yellow-crested, black-and-white penguin. Black upperparts. White underparts. Pure white to pale grey cheeks from crest to throat. Long yellow, orange and black plumes project from forehead patch back along crown and droop behind eye. Similar spp. E. schlegeli and Macaroni Penguin E. chrysolophus are the only crested penguins with crests that meet on forehead. E. chrysolophus has jet-black to dark grey cheeks and throat, but light-faced birds are also reported at some sites.

Distribution and population
This species is confined to Macquarie Island and nearby Bishop and Clerk Islands, Australia. However, small numbers of similar-looking birds appear at other sub-Antarctic islands (such as Kerguelen Island [Duriez and Delord 2012]), indicating that it may breed elsewhere. It was heavily exploited in the 19th century, but has recovered and, in 1984-1985, an estimated 850,000 pairs were breeding on Macquarie, with an earlier count of over 1,000 pairs on Bishop and Clerk. The population is believed to be stable.

Population justification
In 1984-1985, the breeding population on Macquarie Island was estimated at 850,000 pairs, with an earlier count of over 1,000 pairs on Bishop and Clerk Islands (Garnett and Crowley 2000).

Trend justification
The population is thought to be stable, although there is no quantitative analysis to support this (Garnett and Crowley 2000, Garnett et al. 2011, R. Gales in litt. 2012).

It nests in huge colonies on bare, level, pebbly, rocky or sandy ground. When breeding, it feeds on euphausiids, fish and squid. Its ecology and movements during the winter when away from the island are unknown (Christidis and Boles 1994).

It has been argued that there is currently no plausible and serious threat to the species (Garnett et al. 2011). On land, rats take some eggs and young. Breeding success can be reduced as a result of disturbance by researchers and tourists. Marine pollution, particularly ingested plastics, kills some birds. Fishing around sub-Antarctic islands may also adversely affect the species, however during the breeding season the species forages in waters near Macquarie Island and in the Exclusive Economic Zone where fishing is strictly regulated (S. Garnett in litt. 2011). The most likely long-term threat is the effect of climate change on sea-surface temperature and food supply. Disease outbreaks represent another potential threat to the species (R. Gales in litt. 2012). Climate change and disease were recently identified as the only current threats to the species (Trathan et al. 2015).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
In Australia the species has been evaluated as Near Threatened. Studies of foraging ecology and breeding biology have been completed. Monitoring of breeding population size and success is ongoing. Feral cats have now been eliminated from Macquarie Island. A rodent and rabbit eradication programme was undertaken on Macquarie Island (R. Gales in litt. 2012, Parks and Wildlife Service 2014). As of August 2014 there had been no signs or sightings of rabbits since December 2011, no signs or sightings of rats since May 2011 and no sightings of mice since June 2011 and no signs of them since April 2012 (Parks and Wildlife Service 2014). Tourists on breeding islands are managed to prevent disturbance.
  Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to obtain an up-to-date population estimate. Determine trends in numbers. Monitor rates and effects of marine debris ingestion. Monitor the effects of fishing. Establish demographic parameters, particularly survival of different age classes. Study the potential impacts of climate change. Implement a biosecurity plan for Macquarie Island (Parks and Wildlife Service 2014).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 1994. The taxonomy and species of birds of Australia and its territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, Melbourne.

Department of the Environment. 2015. Eudyptes schlegeli in Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available at: (Accessed: 01/09/2015).

Duriez, O. and Delord, K. 2012. Manchots, pétrels et albatros: oiseaux des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF). Ornithos 19(3): 162-183.

Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Garnett, S. T.; Szabo, J. K.; Dutson, G. 2011. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Parks and Wildlife Service. 2014. Evaluation Report: Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project, August 2014. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart, Tasmania.

Trathan, P.N., Garcia-Borboroglu, P., Boersma, D., Bost, C.A., Crawford, R.J.M., Crossin, G.T., Cuthbert, R.J., Dann, P., Davis, L.S., De La Puente, S., Ellenberg, U., Lynch, H.J., Mattern, T., Putz, K., Seddon, P.J., Trivelpiece, W. and Wienecke, B. 2015. Pollution, habitat loss, fishing, and climate change as critical threats to penguins. Conservation Biology 29(1): 31-41.

Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Stattersfield, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Copson, G., Gales, R., Garnett, S. & García Borboroglu, P.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Eudyptes schlegeli. Downloaded from on 30/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/11/2015.

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

ARKive species - Royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Spheniscidae (Penguins)
Species name author Finsch, 1876
Population size 1700000 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 130 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species