Thursday, July 28, 2011

Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Southern Rockhopper Penguins on the Falkland Islands
Meet the colorfully adorned Southern Rockhopper Penguin. These birds of the Antarctic waters are known for their bright yellow head feathers, spiky plumage, massive colony sizes, and aggressive personalities.

Once upon a time, all Rockhopper Peguins were considered to be members of one single species. But that time has come and gone and these crazy head-feathered birds have now been reclassified into three separate species. The smaller of these species is today's Southern Rockhopper.

Molting Chicks
The Southern Rockhopper also has its own distinct subspecies. One is found on the Falkland Islands, and on islands off of Argentina and Chile. The other is found in the far southern Indian Ocean, reaching from South Africa all the way to New Zealand. Whichever island they live on, these penguins are known to live in massive groups. During the breeding season one colony can contain over 100,000 nests!

Southern Rockhopper Penguins typically mate for life, and most couple will return to the exact same nesting site year after year. Interestingly, they usually lay two eggs at a time, the first being far smaller than the second. While this first eggs is capable of hatching, it is normally lost and only one chick will survive.

The Falkland Islands was once home to over 2 Million breeding pairs. Unfortunately, their numbers have since dropped to around 300,000. Overall, commercial fishing and other factors have led to a 30% drop in the Southern Rockhopper Population.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Antarctic Water
Size : Body length up to 24in (60cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Sphenisciformes
Family : Spheniscidae -- Genus : Eudyptes -- Species : E. chrysocome

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