7 Feb 2013

Yellow-eyed Penguins at the Auckland Islands

From Our Changing World, 9:34 pm on 7 February 2013

Yellow-eyed Penguin Survey at the Auckland Islands

By Alison Ballance

Yellow-eyed penguins on Enderby Island

A pair of yellow-eyed penguins (left) sky-calling in an ecstatic display, and a group of penguins heading out to sea to feed in the morning (images: A. Ballance)

Hoiho - the ‘noise shouters’ or yellow-eyed penguins – are among the world’s rarest penguins. They’re found on the east coast of southern South Island and on Stewart Island, where they face challenges from predators, habitat loss and disease. They also live in the remote subantarctic, which has long been considered their stronghold. But only one count has ever been made of their numbers at subantarctic Campbell and Auckland islands, and that was by Peter Moore back in the late 1980s.

So in November 2012 the Department of Conservation and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust teamed up with six paying volunteers to carry out a survey of yellow-eyed penguins at the Auckland islands, and Alison Ballance went along to help with the counting. The counting was carried out as a series of beach and coast counts between 5 and 9 am each morning, and sites surveyed included Enderby Island, Ewing Island, Rose Island and Adams Island, along with North Harbour, Matheson’s Bay and Waterfall Bay on the main Auckland Island. During the survey the penguins were incubating eggs.

Although it is difficult to draw conclusions from just two surveys carried out 23 years apart preliminary results show that yellow-eyed penguin numbers in the Auckland Islands may have declined by a third from 1989 to 2012. A similar survey was also carried out on Campbell Island during November 2012 but those results have yet to be analysed.

Auckland Island expedition team members

The team - back row left to right: Marcy Taylor, Sharon Kast, Leith Thompson (Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust), expedition leader Jo Hiscock (DoC), Rachel Downey, David Houston (DoC), David Agnew (DoC), Megan Willans (DoC). Front row left to right: Alison Ballance (Radio NZ), Katie Underwood, Alister Robinson and Alan MacGee (image: A. Ballance)

Expedition leader was Jo Hiscock from the Department of Conservation. The expedition was based on the yacht Evohe, skippered by Steve Kafka.

Alison kept a blog which was posted on the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust’s web page while the expedition was underway.

You can find further Our Changing World stories about wildlife and conservation in the subantarctic at the following links:

Subantarctic expedition to put boardwalk on Campbell Island

Peter Moore on royal albatrosses on Campbell Island

Louise Chilvers on New Zealand sealions at the Auckland islands

Peter McClelland on removing introduced mammals from subantarctic islands

Kath Walker and Graeme Elliott on Gibson’s wandering albatrosses on Adams Island

Simon Childerhouse on southern right whales