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Common name: Rockhopper Penguin.
Scientific name: Eudyptes chrysocome.
Population: around 4 million pairs.
Location: Sub-Antactic island coasts.
Size: 18 to 23 inches (45 to 58 centimeters) tall.
Weight: about 4 to 8 pounds (2 to 3 kilograms).
Diet: krill, fish and squid.
Nests: on ledges, among rocks, in crevices, caves, and burrows.
Named: for hopping with both feet together over rocks and crevices on coastal shores.
1. Adelie penguin. 2. Antipodean penguin. 3. Chinstrap penguin. 4. Emperor penguin. 5. Erect-crested penguin. 6. Galapagos penguin. 7. Jackass penguin. 8. King penguin. 9. Macaroni penguin. 10. Magellan penguin. 11. Peruvian penguin. 12. Rockhopper penguin. 13. Royal penguin. 14. Snares Islands penguin. 15. Southern Blue penguin. 16. Southern gentoo. 17. Yellow-eyed penguin.
There are 17 different types of penguins, among which is the crested Rockhopper Penguin. There are six varieties of crested penguins. Crested penguins have red or orange bills and pink feet. Rockhoppers live on islands that surround Antarctica.
Characteristics & Description.
Flightless birds, who are very sociable and rarely seen alone, rockhoppers, having a circumpolar distribution, are the most widespread penguin of the crested variety inhabiting islands from near the Polar front of Antarctica to subtropical islands near the Indian and South Atlantic oceans.
Gently preening their mates, in a behaviour that is called, allopreening, the small, loud and noisy, aggressive, fiesty, and quick to attack anyone or anything that threatens or annoys them yellow crested penguins (genus Eudyptes), are the smallest of the six crested varieties of penguins.
Standing upright on their two short feet with their legs set far back upon their bodies the rockhoppers walk with a waddle, and hop with their feet together from rock to rock as they move around their colonies.
The rockhoppers have tiny vivid red eyes, the eyes of the other crested penguins are darker. They have short, bright, strong and healthy orange-red bulbous beaks, white stripes on their cheeks, adultsspiked black occipital crests at the backs of their heads, and a distinctive thin yellow stripe looking like an eyebrowwhich commences behind the beak and extends over the eyes and to the back of the head where it develops into a large brightly coloured yellow feathered crest, they have three layers of feathers, down feathers, flight feathers and contour feathers, pink legs, and webbed pink feet with long claws.
They have big heads, stiff and pendulous flaps (flippers), short thick necks, streamlined bodies with thickly feathered waterproof coats, and short wedge-shaped tails. Looking similar in appearance the male weighs about 6 pounds and the female weighs about 5 and a half pounds.
Camouflaged from their predators by white undersides, and blueish black backs, the rockhoppers who feed upon lantern fish, krill (small euphausiid crustaceans) and squid, leap off the ledges of rocky cliffs and slopes into coastal seas using their webbed feet and flippers to swim and dive for prey.
Emerging from the sea the rockhoppers, who are battered against rocks, launch themselves from high waves onto rocky coasts where they use their exceptional agile hopping abilities to quickly climb cliffs, clinging to the ground with their strong claws while hopping and jumping with their feet together across crevices, and from rock to rock over distances of four to five feet to reach their rocky nesting sites on ledges, cliffs and slopes.
Three subpecies of Rockhoppers have been recognized some of which are of a separate species, whose classification is doubtful and requires further investigation. Rockhopper penguins are differentiated from the Macaroni penguin and other members of the crested variety of penguins by their small size, their bright red eyes, and their yellow feathered crests.
Feathers & Grooming.
The rockhoppers coat is made of feathers that are about 2.9 centimeters long, with a density of around 70 feathers per square inch. Curved overlapping of the feathers helps to keep the penguins bluish-black and white coats both shiny and, waterproof.
Constant grooming helps the rockhoppers to maintain their waterproof coats. The feathers are flattened while being preened with oil which is secreted from a gland at the base of the tail. Rockhoppers are socially bonded during grooming. Rockhopper feathers are lost and renewed once a year after the breeding season.
The incredible listening skills of the rockhoppers is better than that of humans.
The call of a rockhopper sounds like the braying of a donkey. Their mating calls are species specific, and are called "ecstatic vocalization." The calls draw attention to the bird as it announces its intentions.
Well worn tracks, shrubs and grasses cover the ground from the water to older rockhopper breeding colonies, where the penguins top up their old nests with new nesting materials, or scrape holes in the ground, and build new nests lined with tufts of grass, feathers, pebbles, scree, and peat. The rockhoppers who daily waddle and hop to the sea to forage for food,nest and breed in rocky gullies, and on cliffs and rocky slopes near the edge of puddles and springs of fresh water, where they bathe and drink, in large, open colonies that are filled with excitement, emotion and noise, in association with, and not intimidated by, and often pecking other species, (erect-crested penguins, cormorants, and albatross), in cool, southern localities, on steep rocky, coastal slopes of sub-Antarctic Islands amongst rocks and boulders, tussocks (clumps or tufts of grass), pebbles, scree and peat, and sometimes in rocky burrows, crevices and small caves, on overhangs and steep rock-faces during the warmest months of the southern hemisphere (from October to early March). Rockhopper penguins prefer to breed on rocky slopes rather than on flat and sandy beaches.
Courting, breeding & colonies.
Every year adult males return to the same mates, the same nesting sites, and the same breeding colonies during October, with the females arriving a few days later. Their breeding grounds are enormous, with nesting densities that range from 1.5 to 3 nests per meter in a colony of up to 100,000. Fiercely competing for territory, for mates, and for nesting materials, the rockhoppers display their intentions and feelings by shaking their heads, causing their yellow plumage to fly into a ring, flapping their flippers, bowing, preening, and vocalizing with noisy gabble, and harsh discordant sounds. (a very loud cry which is called "ecstatic "vocalization" species specific mating calls.) The rockhoppers mate in early spring or late summer (Oct-April) which enables their young to go to sea during the middle of summer when the sea is rich with food.
Rockhopper pictures and sounds.
Antarctica. To hear sound click "Hear it" on Museum page. To return to this page click your "back button"
During November the female lays two white hard shelled eggs of unequal size about 4 and 5 days apart. Both parents share the responsibility of caring for the eggs, which are incubated for about 33 days. Rockhoppers have been known to adopt a third egg, which is usually lost. During incubation heat is transferred to the eggs from a brood pouch, (bare patch of skin) on the lower abdomen of the penguin. The female is the first to incubate the eggs, while the male goes off to sea to forage for food, the male then incubates the eggs, being nourished by the female, who returns to the nest when the chicks are due to hatch. Predators sometimes eat the first egg or its chick which, if hatching does not usually survive. Covered in a soft and fluffy down nestlings do not have the yellow crest or orange-brown bill of their adult birds.
Feeding the chicks.
Chicks are guarded, fed, and cared for, for the first three weeks of their lives by both of the parents.
As in many penguin species, male Rockhoppers are capable of producing 'milk' from their digestive systems which they then regurgitate for their chicks when the female is away hunting for food, or, when she, does not return.
Rockhoppers with bellies full of food for their chicks are battered against rocks and cliffs as they emerge from the sea to launch themselves from high waves onto rocky coasts where they waddle and hop, from rock to rock, climbing over slopes and ledges and cliffs, gripping rocks with their strong claws, to reach the nesting sites of their young and defencless chicks.
Rockhopper chicks huddle together in large groups called "creches" when they are about three or four weeks old while both of their parents go foraging for food. The returning rockhoppers identify their chicks by calling to them and listening for their cries. The adults regurgitate food when the chicks nuzzle up against their beaks. Feeding from its parent's open mouth, the parent re-swallows the food that is remaining in its beak when the little chick is full.
By the time a rockhopper chick is about ten weeks old it has lost its soft and fluffy down, grown a new waterproof coat of feathers, and is old enough to go to the sea and fish for its own food. Rockhopper chicks fledge during February or March at a time when their parents head off to sea to fatten up for their own moult which begins early in March. Moulting chicks are joined by sexually immature juveniles who moult at the same colony.
The cheeks of juvenile rockhoppers are paler than the adults, their throats and chins are mottled with white, and their crests are shorter and fainter. Rockhoppers begin to breed at about the age of 4.
Adult rockhoppers leave their chicks to fend for themselves and go to sea to fatten up in preparation for their own moult which occurs during March and April, a time during which rockhoppers lose a lot of weight during fasting and rest. Rockhoppers spend a lot of time hiding their heads beneath their flippers resting and sleeping during the moult.
Rockhoppers are kept warm by well-developed layers of fat and a system which is designed to maintain heat.
Penguins who live in areas where the climate is warm have exposed areas on their faces, legs, and feet which help them to keep cool. They also spend a lot of time in burrows beneath the ground, and in cold currents of water within the sea. Rockhoppers also help to keep themselves cool by spreading their flippers and fluffing up their feathers and panting.
In the frozen region of Antarctica, Emperor and Adelie penguins swim in warm currents of the frozen sea.
Thirsty rockhoppers, drink salty water when foraging in the sea for food. The penguins use a special gland in their bodies to remove the salt, which passes out of the penguins body during excretion and drips down along grooves that are on the sides of the penguins beaks.
Rockhopper habitat and range.
South Africa, Amsterdam Islands, Antipodes Islands, Islands off Argentina, Auckland Islands, Australia, Campbell, Chile, Crozet, Prince Edward, Falkland Islands, Gough, Heard Island, St. Helena, Kerguelen Islands, Macquarie, McDonald Islands, Marion, New Zealand, St. Paul Island, Prince Edward Islands, Tristan de Cunha.
Rockhoppers live on most of the islands in the Antarctic region, they occur farther north than many other species of penguins.
Opportunistic feeders, rockhoppers often forage in groups. The carnivorous (meat-eating) penguins catch prey (squid, krill, small octopus, and small fish) when diving near the surface of the sea, or to depths of about 100 meters around 40 kilometres from their breeding colonies. Catching the prey in their beaks, they swallow it whole above or beneath the surface of the water.
Killer whales, blue sharks, leopard seals, sea-lions, fur seals, and octopus, prey on rockhoppers within the sea, while on the land, the eggs and chicks are preyed upon by skuas, petrels, Kelp gulls, Dominican gulls, and other birds.
Barracouta fish bite, and injure the feet of yellow eyed penguins and crested penguins with wounds that sometimes get infected. Sharks savagely injure, young penguins.
The camouflaged bluish-black and white coats of the rockhoppers sometimes help to keep them hidden from predators that are above and beneath them when they are in the sea.
The average lifespan of a rockhopper penguin is 10 years.
Rockhoppers are regarded as economically important to humans because they attract tourists (money). Many tourists travel to penguin habitats just to see rockhopper penguins.
Survival & Decline.
Threats to the survival of rockhpper penguins include: Global warming which is contributing to warmer waters; increasing disturbances in penguin territories; declining fish stocks due to over fishing (commercial fishing) which is reducing the penguins amount of available prey, driftnet fishing, failure to provide no fishing zones near penguin colonies, egg collection, oil spills, pollution, and "red tides" which are caused by toxic algal blooms.
After 100,000 rockhopper penguins starved to death in the Falkland Islands, the Spheniscus Penguin Conservation Work Group published a report which recommended commercial fishing be excluded within 30 miles of penguin breeding sites. The measures were adopted around Argentina and Chile, and the sites regained health with increasing numbers of penguins. The Falklands refused to introduce the protection, and as a result, their penguin numbers are continuing to decline. See. Rockhopper penguin. http://www.arkive.org/
Rockhopper penguin populations have decreased alarmingly in Tristan da Cunha, and the Antipodes Falkland and Campbell Islands, the latter being in the order of 94 percent, and the species has just been upgraded to 'vulnerable' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The reasons for these steep declines are: loss of rockhopper prey due to increased surface temperature of the sea caused largely by Global warming, commerical fishing, and oil spills.
Rockhoppers are now classified as vulnerable, if their numbers continue to decline they may be listed as and endagered species in the near future.
Once hunted for its oil the rockhopper is now a protected bird.
Highly specialized Antarctic marine diving birds, who use their flippers to swim through water, and their webbed feet as rudders and brakes. Waterproofed when oiled, their stiff feathers serve to insulate their streamlined bodies keeping them warm and dry. Beneath the water, with enemies like the orca, and the leopard seal and sharks, penguins swim at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour whilst pursuing squid and shrimp. They waddle on land upon feet that are set far back on their bodies, and toboggan on their bellies over ice and snow migrating long distances to reach nesting sites. Subsisting on a layer of fat beneath their skins some of the penguins such as the Emperor do not eat while on the land. Jackass penguins named for their braying cries, crested penguins identified by feathered crests upon their heads,
and the little blue penguins of Australia and New Zealand are sociable birds who populate the southern hemisphere of our earth in their millions.
Bulbous: bulb shaped, round and fat, having bulbs, (of plants) growing from a bulb.
Converge: approach (from different directions), move towards the same point, come together, to meet, or join.
Circumpolar: About or near one of the earth's poles.
Dissipate: squander, waste, scatter, disperse, fritter away, dispel.
Fledge: rear young bird till it can fly, provide with feathers, mature, independent.
Occipit: back of head. [ox-sip-put] ipital: head.
Peat: vegetable matter that decomposed and carbonized in water. Carbonized vegetable matter, found in, and cut in pieces out of, bogs and used as fertilizer and fuel.
Regurgitate. bring partly digested food from the crop back up into the beak.
Tuft of grass: grass held together or growing together at the base.
Sources. Bible..Library..Internet..Dictionary's.. Encyclopedia's.