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Yellow-eyed Penguin Megadyptes antipodes
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This species is listed as Endangered because it is confined to a very small range when breeding, in which its forest/scrub habitat has declined in quality. Its population has undergone extreme fluctuations and is now thought to be in overall decline.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

65 cm. Medium-sized penguin with pale yellow eye. Pale yellow head with black feather shafts. Band of bright yellow from eyes around back of head. Juvenile has greyer head with no band. Similar spp. Distinctive from other crested penguins in range. Voice Slightly musical compared to other penguin species.

Distribution and population
Megadyptes antipodes is endemic to New Zealand where it breeds on the South Island's south-east coast (523 pairs in 2010-2011 [D. Houston in litt. 2012]), Stewart Island and offshore islands of Stewart Island (220-400 pairs in 1994, dropping to 178 pairs in 1999-2001 [Massaro and Blair 2003]), Auckland Islands (520-570 pairs) and Campbell Islands (405 pairs) (Moore 2001, D. Houston in litt. 2007). Two severe mortality events in 1986 and 1990 each halved the number of South Island pairs, and in 2004 50% of chicks in South Island were killed by diptheritic stomatisis (D. Houston in litt. 2007). However, numbers have recovered to 1980 levels (D. Houston in litt. 2007). The Catlins population (south-east coast of South Island) may have declined by 75% since the 1940s (Williams 1995, Heather and Robertson 1997). Numbers of individuals on Campbell Island declined between 1987 and 1998 (Moore et al. 2002). Adults are sedentary, but juveniles disperse north as far as the Cook Strait (Marchant and Higgins 1990).

Population justification
Moore (1992) estimated a total population of 5,930-6,970 birds in 1988/1989, comprising 3,560-4,180 breeders and 2,370-2,790 non-breeders (McKinlay 2001).

Trend justification
The species is thought to be declining overall as a result of a number of threatening processes, principally introduced predators, habitat conversion and disturbance. Although survey results from South Island are not indicative of declines (but rather fluctuations), there is evidence of declines on Stewart Island (D. Houston in litt. 2012).

On islands it usually nests in forest, while in the South Island it tends to nest in scrub remnants (Marchant and Higgins 1990). Nests must have surrounding vegetation that conceals them from visual contact with conspecifics for successful breeding (Seddon and Davis 1989). It is a solitary breeder. Two eggs are laid in mid-September to mid-October, with hatching occurring at the beginning of November. Chicks fledge from mid-February to mid-March (Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust in litt. 2009). It feeds primarily on red cod, opal fish, sprat (van Heezik 1990), silversides, ahuru, blue cod and squid (Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust in litt. 2009). The species's generation length is estimated to be 5-7 years (Ellis et al. 1998).

Introduced ferret Mustela furo, stoat M. erminea and cats are major predators in the South Island. On Stewart Island, the level of threat posed by cats is unclear because of a high rate of chick mortality through starvation and disease (King 2008). Cats are present on Auckland Island, but are absent from Campbell Island, Codfish Island and Enderby Island (D. Houston in litt. 2012). Predation by pigs on the main Auckland Islands is known to occur (B. McKinlay per D. Houston in litt. 2012), but the impact is not known and could be significant. Rogue female Hooker's sea lions eat 20-30 birds annually on the Otago Peninsula (Lalas et al. 2007). Population crashes may be due to avian malaria or biotoxins (Anon 2004), and food shortages due to sea temperature changes may also be a periodic problem (Taylor 2000). Disease appears to be a major problem in some populations in some years, with diptheritic stomatisis (caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium amycolatum) and a Leucocytozoon blood parasite (formerly only known from Fiordland penguins) major causes of mortality for chicks (Houston 2005, Hill et al. 2007). Human disturbance, even from tourists at breeding colonies, negatively affects fledgling weight and probability of survival (McClung et al. 2004). Drowning in fishing nets and accidental fires are additional known threats (Rance 1995).

Conservation Actions Underway
A wide range of research projects has been completed in the South Island. The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust was formed to raise awareness and funds. Many mainland sites have been fenced to minimise trampling by farm stock. Predator trapping is intensive during the breeding season in several South Island sites, and habitat is being restored (Heather and Robertson 1997, Ellis et al. 1998). Distribution data were in the process of being published in early 2012 (D. Houston in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Obtain accurate census data for the Auckland Islands. Census South Island colonies every five years, and study sites annually (Taylor 2000). Eradicate predators from Auckland Islands. Investigate the impact of commercial fishing activity on Yellow-eyed Penguins (set-netting and because of evidence that bottom disturbance by trawling/dredging may influence penguin behaviour and food quality). Regulate tourist access to breeding colonies on South Island.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Boessenkool, S.; Austin, J. J.; Worthy, T. H.; Scofield, P.; Cooper, A.; Seddon, P. J.; Waters, J. M. 2008. Relict or colonizer? Extinction and range expansion of penguins in southern New Zealand. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 276: 815-821.

Darby, J. T. 2003. The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) on Stewart and Codfish Islands. Notornis 50: 148-154.

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.

Hill, S.L., Reid, K., Thorpe, S.E., Hinke, J. and Watters, G.M. 2007. A compilation of parameters for ecosystem dynamics models of the Scotia Sea - Antarctic Peninsula region. CCAMLR Science 14: 1-25.

Houston, D. 2005. Diphtheritic stomatitis in yellow-eyed penguins. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 32: 263-271.

King, S. 2008. Year four: breeding success of yellow-eyed penguins on Stewart Island and offshore islands. 2005–2008. Yellow-eyed PenguinTrust, Dunedin.

Lalas, C.; Ratz, H.; McEwan, K.; McConkey, S. D. 2007. Predation by New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) as a threat to the viability of Yellow-eyed Penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) at Otago Peninsula, New Zealand. Biological Conservation 135: 235-246.

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

Massaro M. and Blair D. 2003. Comparison of population numbers of yellow-eyed penguins, Megadyptes antipodes, on Stewart Island and on adjacent cat-free islands. N. Z. J. Ecol. 27: 107-113.

McClung, M. R.; Seddon, P. J.; Massaro, M.; Setiawan, A. N. 2004. Nature-based tourism impacts on yellow-eyed penguins Megadyptes antipodes: does unregulated visitor access affect fledging weight and juvenile survival? Biological Conservation 119: 279-285.

McKinlay B. 2001. Hoiho (Megadyptes antipodes) recovery plan, 2000–2005. Threatened species recovery plan 35. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

Moore, P. J. 1992. Breeding biology of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Megadyptes antipodes on Campbell Island. Emu 92: 157-162.

Moore, P. J. 2001. Historical records of Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) in southern New Zealand. Notornis 48: 145-156.

Rance, C. 1995. Tragedy at Te Rere. Forest and Bird 25: 22-23.

Seddon, P. J.; Davis, L. S. 1989. Nest-site selection by Yellow-eyed Penguins. Condor 91: 653-659.

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

van Heezik, Y. 1990. Seasonal, geographical and age-related variations in the diet of the Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 17: 201-212.

Williams, T. D. 1995. The penguins Spheniscidae. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
New Zealand Govt - Dept of Conservation - Recovery Plan

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

Houston, D., McKinlay, B.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Megadyptes antipodes. Downloaded from on 20/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/04/2014.

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.

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 - Yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Spheniscidae (Penguins)
Species name author (Hombron & Jacquinot, 1841)
Population size 3500-4200 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) -
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species