Eudyptes chrysocomerockhopper penguin

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Geographic Range

Rockhopper penguins are found on islands in the southern ocean, such as the Falkland Islands. They occur farther north than many other penguin species.

Habitat

Rockhopper penguins are found in high grasses called tussocks, where they make burrows and nest. As their name implies, they live on rocky shorelines.

Physical Description

Rockhopper penguins measure about 55 centimeters in length and weigh around 2.5 kilograms. These birds stand upright on two short feet. Their legs are set far back on the body. The waterproof coat, composed of feathers that average 2.9 centimeters in length, is white on the underside and bluish-black on the top. The head has bright yellow plumage on the brow; the yellow feathers extend along the sides. The top of the head has spiked black feathers. The wings are strong, stiff, narrow and flipper-like. Rockhopper penguins have tiny eyes.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    2000 to 3000 g
    70.48 to 105.73 oz
  • Average length
    55 cm
    21.65 in

Reproduction

Mating calls, which are species specific, are called "ecstatic vocalization." This draws attention to the bird and announces its intentions. Penguins mate with the same partners from previous years. (Williams, 1981)

Rockhopper penguins typically mate in the early spring or late summer, enabling the young to go to the sea in the mid-summer. They mate in vast colonies and lay up to two eggs, although sometimes pairs "adopt" a third egg. The first egg is usually 20-50% smaller than second one. The small egg is usually lost, although it is capable of maturing into a normal bird. Adopted eggs are also typically lost. After each egg is laid, it is turned over to the male who sits on it and keeps it in his brood pouch for the next four months until it hatches. (Williams, 1981)

  • Breeding interval
    Rockhopper penguins breed once yearly.
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 2

While the male penguin sits on the incubating egg, he is nourished by the female, or else he fasts for the entire period. If the female does not return with food for the chick once it has hatched, the male produces "penguin's milk" from his digestive system and regurgitates it for the baby.

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male

Lifespan/Longevity

The average lifespan of a rockhopper penguin is 10 years.

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 years

Behavior

Penguins are very sociable animals. It is very rare to see one alone. Rockhopper penguins are the most aggressive, as well as the most numerous, penguins. They hide their heads under their wing while they rest. Rockhopper penguins leave the breeding colony in late summer or fall and spend 3-5 months at sea, where they find food. Penguin wings are used exclusively for swimming, these sea birds do not fly.

Communication and Perception

Their loud cry, "ecstatic vocalization", is used to announce their presence, attract a mate, or announce the boundaries of their territory. As well as vocalizing, these birds shake their heads and cause their yellow eyebrows to fly into a "halo" in order to attract a mate.

Food Habits

Rockhopper penguins eat primarily krill (Euphausiacea). They also eat squid and other crustaceans. They make daily trips to the sea to forage.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats non-insect arthropods
  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • aquatic crustaceans

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Penguins are a tourist attraction, and they are one of the main reasons people travel to the Falkland Islands and other habitats of these penguins.

Conservation Status

It is estimated that rockhopper penguins have undergone a decline of more than 30% in their total population size over the past 30 years. For this reason, they are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. If the decline continues, they may be uplisted to endangered in the near future. Threats to rockhopper penguin populations include commercial fishing, which reduces the amount of available prey, and oil spills. (Bingham, 2002; BirdLife International, 2004; Ryan and Cooper, 1991)

Other Comments

Rockhopper penguins keep warm by their well-developed fat layer and system for maintaining heat.

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Devon Phelan (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

coastal

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Gorman, James. 1990. The Total Penguin. Prentice Hall Press, NY.

Grzimek, Dr.Dr.h.c. Bernhard. 1972. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. p.133-134. Van Norstrand Reinhold Co. NY.

New Scientist. "Did Warm Water Kill Falkland Penguins?" IPC Magazine Ltd. Vol. 114. May 28, 1987. p.22.

Bingham, M. 2002. The decline of Falkland Islands penguins in the presence of a commercial fishing industry. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 75(4): 805-818.

BirdLife International, 2004. "Eudyptes chrysocome" (On-line). 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed November 14, 2005 at www.redlist.org.

Ryan, P., J. Cooper. 1991. Rockhopper penguins and other marine life threatened by drift net fisheries at Tristan da Cunha, South Atlantic Ocean. Oryx, 25(2): 76-79.

Williams, A. 1981. The clutch size of macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus and rockhopper penguins Eudyptes chrysocome. Emu, 81(2): 87.