Erect-Crested Penguin

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Height: 60 to 67 cm (24 to 27 inches) for average adult.

Weight: 3 to 7 kg (7 to 15 lbs) for average adult.


  • Upright parallel feather combs of yellow create a brush-like crest over eye. Crest is often 6 cm (2.5 inches) in length.
  • Bare white skin at base of reddish brown bill base.
  • Juvenile has slight or absent crest until first moult.


  • Pink.


  • Krill, squid and small fish.


  • Breed regularly on Bounty and Antipodes Islands below New Zealand and in small numbers on Auckland and Campbell Islands in rock cavities sheltered from the direct sunlight.
  • Males defend their territory aggressively with displaying threats (bill agape and neck outstretched), growling and fighting with pecks and flailing flippers.
  • Often share breeding grounds with Salvin’s and Shy Albatrosses (Bounty) and Rockhopper Penguins (Antipodes).


  • Males arrive at colony a week or two before females to claim a nesting site on bare exposed ground, rocks, beaches and cliffs, no nest is constructed.
  • As females arrive at the colony the males vocalize on territory and swings his head from side to side to attract mate.
  • 2 eggs are laid after courtship. The first egg is deliberately ejected from the nest soon after the second egg is laid. The first egg is small, about the size of a chicken’s egg and pale green, the second egg is twice the size and white. The second egg is laid four to six days after the first. The second egg is kept in the brood patch and hatched.
  • Both adults stay at nest from courtship and take frequent turns incubating the egg for a total of 35 days.
  • When hunger forces males to leave females alone on their nests with eggs the females are often attached. Penguins that were not successful breeders would attack the nesting female with blows from their flippers and beaks to try to force her to abandon the nest and egg. It is thought this is why the male stays with the female as long as possible.
  • When the male returns from feeding he becomes the sole protector for the first 2 or 3 weeks while the female becomes the sole food provider.
  • Chicks join a crèche when they are too big to fit between the adults’ feet. The crèche is located in the middle of the colony where the chicks peck at each other in a quarrelsome group.
  • Upon returning with food the parents use their unique call and the chick answers with sharp cheeps that it’s parents recognize.
  • The adults leave after their chicks have fledged staying at sea two months building up their fat reserve to return to the nesting site for their annual moult that takes approximately one month.


  • Skuas steal eggs and chicks.
  • Occasionally New Zealand Fur Seals.

Interesting Facts

  • **One of 6 Crested Penguin Species: 1. Erect-crested Penguin 2. Fiordland Penguin 3. Macaroni Penguin 4. Rockhopper Penguin 5. Royal Penguin 6. Snares Penguin
  • All 6 Crested Penguins lay 2 eggs but rear only one chick.
  • Endangered. The populations have decreased by approximately 50% in the last 45 years. Appears to be stable at this time due to the lack of human interference as they breed on islands. © All rights reserved.

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