Erect-crested penguin

The endangered cousin of the Fiordland penguin

Christopher Stephens

Erect-crested penguin


The endangered cousin of the Fiordland penguin

Population 150,000
75% population decrease since 1978

A distinctive species known for its prominent yellow crest and its relatively elusive nature, making it one of the lesser-known and least-studied penguins. This species is considered small to medium-sized, significantly larger than the Little Penguin but smaller than species like the Emperor or King Penguins.

The most striking feature of the Erect-crested Penguin is the broad, golden-yellow eyebrow stripes that extend upwards to form a stiff, erect crest, which can be raised or lowered. The pale blue skin at the base of their bill adds to their distinctive appearance, setting them apart from other crested penguin species.

Their feeding habits remain largely unobserved due to the remoteness of their habitat. However, like other penguin species, it is presumed that they feed on a variety of marine organisms, including krill, squid, and small fish, which they procure through their proficient diving abilities.

Erect-crested Penguins have a peculiar reproductive strategy. They lay two eggs each breeding season, but the first egg, which is smaller, is often abandoned or discarded. This may be an adaptation to the harsh conditions of their breeding sites, where raising two chicks may not be viable. The penguins focus their efforts on the second, larger egg, which has a higher chance of survival.

Vocal communication among Erect-crested Penguins includes a booming, bray-like call that is lower-pitched than those of many other penguin species. These calls play an essential role in individual recognition and in maintaining the social structure within their colonies.

The Erect-crested Penguin’s range is limited to a few islands in the Southern Ocean, with breeding colonies primarily found on the Bounty and Antipodes Islands, which are part of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands. The specificity of their breeding sites and the limited geographic range make this species particularly vulnerable to environmental changes.


Population est.
Pacific ocean
Falkland Islands
Non-Breeding: Malvinas
New Zealand

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Colony

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No