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Little Blue Penguin

Of all the penguins in the world, the little blue penguin is surely the smallest. Sometimes called the fairy penguin, these tiny little creatures are normally about 33cm tall, whereas the typical penguin might be 60-90cm in height, with some emperors ranging up to 120cm.

The blue penguin is normally found in colonies along the southern coasts of countries that are near Antarctica including  Australia and New Zealand, however they have also been sited in Chile and South Africa.

Although they are not considered an endangered species, it is estimated that there are only about 600,000 little blue penguins remaining in the world, the vast majority of  which reside in Australia.

Australians are responsible for the nickname Fairy Penguin because of their tiny size. Neighbouring islanders in New Zealand are fond of calling them Little Blue Penguin or just Blue Penguin, because of the subdued bluish colour of their feathers. In fact, most of their body is blue, except for their underbelly and pink feet. In New Zealand, some of the blue penguins have a white stripe around their flippers.

Pinguino pequeno or Pinguino azul are the Spanish language names given to the fairy penguin by the Chileans. These names in English mean Little Penguin or Blue Penguin. Although there were some reports of the little blue penguin living in South Africa, the only colonies are found in Australia and New Zealand.

What would a blue penguin eat? Blue penguins like to dive for their food; they have been observed eating fish, squid and certain other small sea creatures such as anchovies, plankton, and krill.  Although they are proficient divers, blue penguins generally don’t dive much deeper than two metres or stay immersed more than 20 seconds. And yet, there are records of blue penguins diving more than 18 metres  for longer than 60 seconds!

It is believed that little blue penguins mate for life, with both father and mother caring for the chicks.  When little penguin chicks are born, they come two at a time. It takes two years for a female to become an adult and three years for a male to mature. They live in colonies and each family has a burrow. When available blue penguins often prefer crevices in rocks or caves and on rare occasion, they have been known to reside in crevices in buildings.

During the day, little blue penguins go down to the sea to hunt in groups in shallow waters close to the shore. Blue penguins prefer to hunt in groups becuase it provides better defense against predators such as foxes, cats, seals and gulls.  At night, they return to thier burrows to feed their chicks.

Far from being inconspicuous, the little blue penguin can be extremely noisy, especially just before dawn when preparing for the daily trek to the sea. People can see them from land due to their habit of staying close to shore.  Other overt activities occur in June when females make their debut at breeding colonies. This causes loud outbursts from the males who put on wonderful shows of obvious courting behaviour.

While the little blue penguin is by far the smallest species of penguin, they do not fear humans, are excellent aquatic divers, with beautiful plumage.  These characteristics amongst many others endear these short chubby creatures  to us as one of the natural treasures of the world.

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