Ian’s Bird of the Week – Royal Penguin

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 1

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Royal Penguin ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 12/10/11

I think that this should really be the Bird of the Trip, if not the Year. The birders’ table at dinner on the last night on board had a vote for Bird of the Trip, and it was a close contest between the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, featured last week, and my choice, the Royal Penguin. As I mentioned last week, Macquarie Island was for most of us the highlight of the trip, and the day spent on familiar terms with the penguins was memorably enchanting.

Four species breed there, the commonest being the Royal and King Penguins. The King Penguins are beautiful, very smart, elegant and colourful, but the smaller Royals (up to 75cm/30in in length) won hands down in terms of personality.
Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 2

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 2

Who could fail to be endeared by the curious attention of the bird in the first photo or by the ones promenading along the beach as in the second photo or by the pair having a deep and meaningful exchange, as in the the third photo?
Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 3

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 3

Apart from curiosity, the penguins appeared little affected by our presence. They would move out of the way if you walked towards them, but if you sat on the beach, they’d come over to check you out and nibble in an exploratory manner on clothing and cameras. The Labrador-eyed baby elephant seals would come over for a cuddle, but that’s another story.
Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 4

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 4

The beach was the promenade area but the real action was taking place at a huge rookery behind the beach, fourth photo. Here, many thousands of Royal Penguins were huddled on uncomfortable-looking stony nests incubating eggs like the long-suffering one having a bad-hair day in the fifth photo.
Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 5

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 5

Woe betide a penguin getting too close to another one’s nest, and an individual moving through the colony was subject to a cacophony of abuse like the one in the sixth photo. The abusers didn’t appeared seriously aggressive, more just letting off steam and complaining about the crowded conditions. They did get serious, however, when the brown skuas attempted to steal their eggs and the area around the rookery was littered with empty egg shells.
Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 6

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 6

Now generally recognised as a separate species from the closely related Macaroni Penguin, the Royal breeds only on Macquarie Island and the population is estimated at 850,000 pairs. (Macaronis have black chins, Royal have white ones.) ‘Royal’ struck me as a quite inappropriate name: ‘court jester’ would be closer. Maybe that would be underestimating them: the one in the last photo looks like a real champion emerging from the surf, up there with any cross-channel swimmer.
Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 7

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) by Ian 7

I’m in Sydney now on my way home. The week spent in Tasmania in search of the local endemics was largely successful, despite sometimes miserable weather and I’m looking forward to making many additions to the website.
Best wishes
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Wow! How do they ever know where their nest is located? That must have been some experience. That second photo looks like they are strutting their stuff.

The Penguins are in the Sphenisciformes Order and they make up the only family, the Spheniscidae Family. See Ian’s photos of the Penguins and then check out our Birds of the WorldSpheniscidae – Penguin family.

He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? (Psalms 147:15-17 NKJV)

Apparently Penguins were designed to “stand before His cold.”

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