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Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Snares-crested Penguin

“Eudyptes robustus”

Snares-crested Penguins are crested penguins that reach between 55-70 centimeters (21.5-27.5 inches) in height and they weigh between 3-4 kilograms (6.5-8.8 pounds). They are often confused with Fiordland-crested Penguins, however their patch of skin at the base of their bills helps distinguish them from the Fiordlands. The word Penguin first appears in the 16th century as a synonym for the now extinct Great Auk. When European explorers discovered what are today known as Penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their similar appearance to the Great Auk of the Northern Hemisphere and named them after this seabird, although they are not closely related. Snares-crested Penguins have a black head, throat and back with white bellies. Their yellow crest begins at the base of their bills and extends to their eyes and then drops behind their heads. Their beak is large, reddish/brown in color and is underlined with white skin at the base. They have a yellow stripe that runs from the base of their beak, over their eye and ends in a bushy crest at the back of their head. Snares-crested Penguins are very vocal seabirds and they can swim at speeds of 24 kmh (15 mph). 

Snares-crested Penguins are found on the sheltered beaches of the Snares Islands, off the southern coast of New Zealand. Snares-crested Penguins are named for the Snares Islands where they breed. They nest in the island’s vegetation in dense colonies, moving to “fresh” sites while the vegetation of old sites recovers from the breeding and nesting activities. They feed on crustaceans, cephalopods and small fishes. Adults are preyed upon by Southern Sea Lions, Killer Whales, Leopard Seals and the eggs & chicks are preyed on by Skuas and Giant Petrels. Snares-crested Penguins usually pair up for life and they breed between September and January. The male arrives at the nesting site first, closely followed by the female one week later. In a sheltered area, they will create a nest by scraping a hole in the ground and lining it with grasses, leaves and twigs. Snares-crested Penguins reach sexual maturity at about 6 years of age and begin the breeding season in August. Females lay 2 eggs in late September; the 2nd is often larger and the egg that survives incubation. Parents share brooding the newly hatched chick for about 3 weeks, with the male guarding while the female forages and feeds. This phase is followed by a period when both parents forage and feed while the chick forms groups with other Snares-crested Penguin chicks nearby. The chicks fledge around 11 weeks.

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