- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2012. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.7. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist
Megadyptes antipodes is found in the New Zealand sub Antarctic regions. It is found on the southeast coast of South Island and in the coastal forests of Stewart Island. It can also be found on Auckland and Campbell Islands (Vernon 1991).
Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )
Megadyptes antipodes is a tall and slender penguin. It stands just over 60 cm and weighs five to eight kilograms. Its distinct features are its yellow eyes and yellow feathers that encircle the head. The rest of the animal is black and white. Males and females look similar but males often have a larger head and feet. Megadyptes antipodes only varies in appearance during the molting season, when feathers are being replaced. Juveniles have gray and not yellow eyes; the yellow feathers are usually absent or muted also. The rest of the body is a downy gray or dark brown. Megadyptes antipodes is the fourth largest penguin in the world
(Vernon 1991; Houston 1998; Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust 1998).
Range mass: 5000 to 8000 g.
Catalog Number: USNM A15655
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): S. Holmes
Locality: Auckland Islands, New Zealand, Australia
- Type: Peale. 1848. U.S. Exploring Expedition. 8 (mamm. and orn.): 260, pl. lxx, fig.1.
Habitat and Ecology
Megadyptes antipodes nests in the coastal forests of New Zealand. It prefers secluded spots that are usually backed by a tree or log. Individuals will not nest in sight of other birds.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Aquatic Biomes: coastal
Life History and Behavior
An average life span is 23 years.
Status: wild: 23 years.
When M. antipodes mates, the male mounts the female and rests his neck on the back of hers and vibrates his flippers along her sides.
Megadyptes antipodes begins its breeding season in August with the selection of mates and nest sites. Prior to August, beginning in approximately May, M. antipodes begins the courting season. Pairs of M. antipodes usually stay together for years, only parting when one dies or there is a failure to raise a family. The male fertilizes two eggs that have already developed inside the female. Twelve days later the female lays the eggs. Megadyptes antipodes has a 39-51 day incubation period. For six weeks after hatching, the chicks are guarded. One parent will stay at the nest while the other dives for food in the ocean.
After the chicks are six weeks old, both parents will hunt for food in the ocean, leaving the chicks on their own. Chicks usually leave the nest in mid-February. Megadyptes antipodes reaches sexual maturity at two or three for females and three to five for males.
Breeding interval: Yellow-eyed penguins breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Megadyptes antipodes begins its breeding season in August with the selection of mates and nest sites.
Range time to hatching: 39 to 51 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 3 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 5 years.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Vernon, A. 1991. The Hoiho, New Zealand's Yellow-Eyed Penguin.. New York: Putnam's Sons.
- Houston, D. 1998. "Yellow Eyed Penguin" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001). at http://www.penguin.net.nz/yep/yeps.html.
- Houston, D. 1998. "Yellow Eyed Penguin:Population Status" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001 at http://www.penguin.net.nz/yep/yep2.html.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Megadyptes antipodes
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 17
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Date Listed: 09/02/2010
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: T
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Megadyptes antipodes , see its USFWS Species Profile
Megadyptes antipodes is an endangered species. A 1992 estimate concluded that 5,930-6,970 individuals lived in New Zealand. However, not all of these birds were breeders. Drops in numbers of M. antipodes are attributed to destruction of habitat, fires, grazing, predation, and food shortages. Humans and livestock also disturb this penguin. Predators on M. antipodes include wild cats, ferrets, stoats and dogs.
Many efforts are being made to save M. antipodes. The Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust has set out to protect the animals' habitat, create reserves, fence in breeding areas and control predators. The New Zealand Department of Conservation in conjunction with the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society has also set out to help the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust. This species is protected under law by the Wildlife Act of 1953. However the habitat of this bird is not
(Vernon 1991; Stonehouse 1997; Houston 1998; Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust 1998).
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
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.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) or Hoiho is a penguin native to New Zealand. Previously thought closely related to the Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor), molecular research has shown it more closely related to penguins of the genus Eudyptes. Like most other penguins, it is mainly piscivorous.
The species breeds around the South Island of New Zealand, as well as Stewart, Auckland, and Campbell Islands. Colonies on the Otago Peninsula are a popular tourist venue, where visitors may closely observe penguins from hides, trenches, or tunnels.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin is the sole extant species in the genus Megadyptes. (A smaller, recently extinct species M. waitaha was discovered in 2008.) Previously thought closely related to the Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor), new molecular research has shown it more closely related to penguins of the genus Eudyptes. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests it split from the ancestors of Eudyptes around 15 million years ago.
This is a mid-sized penguin, measuring 62–79 cm (24–31 in) long (fourth largest penguin). Weights vary through the year being greatest, 5.5 to 8 kg (12–18 lbs), just before moulting and least, 3 to 6 kg (6.6–13.2 lbs), after moulting. The males are larger than the females. It has a pale yellow head and paler yellow iris with black feather shafts. The chin and throat are brownish-black. There is a band of bright yellow running from its eyes around the back of the head. The juvenile has a greyer head with no band and their eyes have a grey iris.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin may be long lived, with some individuals reaching 20 years of age. Males are generally longer lived than females, leading to a sex ratio of 2:1 around the age of 10–12 years.
Distribution and habitat
This penguin usually nests in forest or scrub, among Native Flax (Phormium tenax) and lupin (Lupinus arboreus), on slopes or gullies, or the shore itself, facing the sea. These areas are generally sited in small bays or on headland areas of larger bays. It is found in New Zealand, on the south-east coast of the South Island most notably on Otago Peninsula, Foveaux Strait, Stewart Island, and sub-Antarctic islands of Auckland and Campbell Islands. It expanded its range from the subantarctic islands to the main islands of New Zealand after the extinction of the Waitaha Penguin several hundred years ago.
This species of penguin is endangered, with an estimated population of 4000. It is considered one of the world's rarest penguin species. The main threats include habitat degradation and introduced predators. It may be the most ancient of all living penguins.
In spring 2004, a previously undescribed disease killed off 60% of Yellow-eyed Penguin chicks on the Otago peninsula and in North Otago. The disease has been linked to an infection of Corynebacterium, a genus of bacteria that also causes diphtheria in humans. It has recently been described as diphtheritic stomatitis. However, it seems as if this is just a secondary infection. The primary pathogen remains unknown. A similar problem has affected the Stewart Island population.
The yellow-eyed penguin forages predominantly over the continental shelf between 2 km (1 mi) and 25 km (16 mi) offshore, diving to depths of 40 m (131 ft) to 120 m (394 ft)  Breeding penguins usually undertake two kinds of foraging trips: day trips where the birds leave at dawn and return in the evening (day trips) ranging up to 25 km from their colonies, and shorter evening trips during which the birds are seldom longer away from their nest than 4 hours or range further than 7 km. Yellow-eyed penguins are known to be almost exclusive benthic forager that searches for prey along the seafloor. Accordingly, up to 90% of their dives are benthic dives. This also means, that their average dive depths are determined by the water depths within their home ranges.
Around 90% of the Yellow-eyed Penguin's diet is made up of fish, chiefly demersal species that live at the seafloor (e.g. blue cod (Parapercis colias), red cod (Pseudophycis bachus), opalfish (Hemerocoetes monopterygius) ). Other species taken are New Zealand Blueback Sprat (Sprattus antipodum) and cephalopods such as arrow squid (Nototodarus sloanii).
Whether Yellow-eyed Penguins are colonial nesters has been an ongoing issue with zoologists in New Zealand. Most Antarctic penguin species nest in large high density aggregations of birds. For an example see the photo of nesting Emperor Penguin. In contrast yellow-eyed penguins do not nest within visual sight of each other. While they can be seen coming ashore in groups of 4–6 or more individuals then disperse along track to individual nests sites out of sight of each other. The consensus view of New Zealand penguin workers is that it is preferable to use habitat rather than colony to refer to areas where yellow-eyed penguins nest.Nest sites are selected in August and normally two eggs are laid in September. The incubation duties (lasting 39–51 days) are shared by both parents who may spend several days on the nest at a time. For the first six weeks after hatching, the chicks are guarded during the day by one parent while the other is at sea feeding. The foraging adult returns at least daily to feed the chicks and relieve the partner.
After the chicks are six weeks of age, both parents go to sea to supply food to their rapidly growing offspring. Chicks usually fledge in mid February and are totally independent from then on. Chick fledge weights are generally between 5 and 6 kg.
First breeding occurs at 3–4 years of age and long term partnerships are formed.
Penguins and humans
Several mainland habitats have hides and are relatively easily accessible for those wishing to watch the birds come ashore. These include beaches at Oamaru, Moeraki light-house, a number of beaches near Dunedin, and The Catlins. In addition, commercial tourist operations on Otago Peninsula also provide hides to view Yellow-eyed Penguins.
- The Hoiho appears on the reverse side of the New Zealand five-dollar note.
- The Yellow-eyed Penguin is the mascot to Dunedin City Council's recycling and solid waste management campaign.
- The Yellow-eyed Penguin is also featured in Farce of the Penguins, in which they complain about global warming.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Megadyptes antipodes". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Boessenkool, Sanne; et al. (2008). "Relict or colonizer? Extinction and range expansion of penguins in southern New Zealand". Proc. R. Soc. B. 276 (1658): 815–821. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1246. PMC 2664357. PMID 19019791.
- Baker AJ, Pereira SL, Haddrath OP, Edge KA (2006). "Multiple gene evidence for expansion of extant penguins out of Antarctica due to global cooling". Proc Biol Sci. 273 (1582): 11–17. doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3260. PMC 1560011. PMID 16519228. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
- Marion, Remi, Penguins: A Worldwide Guide. Sterling Publishing Co. (1999), ISBN 0-8069-4232-0
- Richdale, L (1957). A population study of penguins. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Williams, Tony D. (1995). The Penguins. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854667-X.
- Other Penguin Species. Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust. Accessed 28 November 2007.
- Gwyneth Hyndman, Land set aside for yellow-eyed penguin protection in Catlins. The Southland Times, Wednesday, 28 November 2007.
- 12km coastal reserve declared for yellow-eyed penguins, Radio New Zealand News, 27 November 2007.
- Five Penguins Win U.S. Endangered Species Act Protection Turtle Island Restoration Network
- Kerrie Waterworth, Mystery illness strikes penguins, Sunday Star Times, 25 November 2007.
- Moore, P. J. 1999: Foraging range of the yellow-eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes. Marine Ornithology 27: 49-59
- Mattern, T.; Ellenberg, U.; Houston, D.M.; Davis, L.S. 2007: Consistent foraging routes and benthic foraging behaviour in yellow-eyed penguins. Marine Ecology Progress Series 343: 295-306
- Mattern, T.; Ellenberg, U.; Houston, D.M.; Lamare, M.; van Heezik, Y.; Seddon, P.J., Davis, L.S. 2013: The Pros and Cons of being a benthic forager: How anthropogenic alterations of the seafloor affect Yellow-eyed penguis. Keynote presentation. 8th International Penguin Conference, Bristol, UK. 2–6 September 2013. http://combine.cs.bris.ac.uk/opencms/ipc/materials/IPC8_Abstract_Book_complete.pdf
- Moore, P.J.; Wakelin, M.D. 1997: Diet of the yellow-eyed penguin Megadyptes antipodes, South Island, New Zealand, 1991-1993. Marine Ornithology 25:17-29
- "Rubbish and Recycling - Services". Dunedin City Council. Retrieved 14 March 2011.