Snares Penguin

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Height: 50 to 60 cm (20 to 24 inches) for average adult.

Weight: 3 to 4 kg (5 to 9 lbs) for average adult.


  • Yellow stripe from bill base forms “eyebrows” then becomes a slightly bushy crest.
  • Bare pink skin at reddish brown bill base.
  • Juvenile has slight or absent crest, is smaller and duller.


  • Pink.


  • Krill, squid and small fish.
  • Fish during the day in small groups of approximately 20.


  • Endemic to The Snares Islands, sub-Antarctic Island group below New Zealand.
  • Instinct returns them to the same breeding site every year, they return to breed when they are 4 - 6 years old.


  • Males claim a nesting site, usually the same one as the previous year, and start collecting leaves, branches and mud to build their nest.
  • Nests are built under bushes and in the gnarled, bent over by wind, large tree daisy Oleria lyallii forest.
  • As females arrive at the colony the males stand on their territory in display to attract his mate with loud vocalizations and vertical head swinging, flippers open wide. Bonds between males and females are maintained year after year.
  • The female lay 2 eggs. The first is always smaller than the second. When the larger second egg is laid, the first is usually abandoned.
  • Both adults take frequent turns incubating the egg for the first 10 days then the male takes over until the egg hatches. The male guards the two chicks during the first three weeks, while the female goes fishing to feed her young.
  • It is rare for both chicks to survive this period; the survivor is usually the chick from the second egg.
  • Chicks join a crèche of six to twelve while both parents return to the sea to fish. The female is the most active provider of the two.
  • Upon returning with food the parents use their unique call and the chick answer with sharp cheeps only its parents recognize.
  • Parents returning from the sea go to their nest, call out to the chick which comes out of the crèches to the nest to feed.
  • After spending two months building up their fat reserves the adults return to the nesting site for their annual molt that takes approximately one month.


  • Hooker’s Sea Lion’s attack the penguins on the beach.
  • Occasionally Leopard Seals and New Zealand Fur Seals.
  • Giant Petrels take chicks.
  • Skuas steal eggs.

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.
  • Snares Penguin colonies have the smallest breeding area in the world for any penguin species making them very vulnerable.
  • One of the reasons for their decline is thought to be competition with commercial fisheries for food as their breeding habitat is in the middle of a squid fishery. © All rights reserved.

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