Ian’s Bird of the Week – Snares Penguin ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 10/23/15
Before we get on to this week’s bird – the Snares Penguin – here is a postscript on last week’s discussion on the boundary between Fuscous and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters on the Atherton Tableland west of Cairns. Keith Fisher sent me this photo of a bird taken at Springvale Road in the Kaban area between Herberton and Ravenshoe in the western drier part of the Tableland (Chapter 14 in Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland, hint, hint). He also sent me information from Lloyd Nielsen who has been studying these birds. It would be a brave person who would identify this bird on appearance alone and it seems that the matter will remain unresolved until someone does some DNA analysis. Thank you Keith.
Now for something completely different and for no other reason than I like penguins and so do most people. We saw various penguin species on the Sub-Antarctic Islands trip that we did in 2011 and here is one of two that hasn’t featured as bird of the week. The first island group that we reached after leaving Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand was the Snares, an isolated group of islands with a total area of 340ha/840acres about 200km/125miles south of the South Island.
The Snares are of particular scientific and conservation value as, unlike other similar islands in the Southern Pacific they were left largely untouched by sealing and whaling and survive, vegetation intact in a fairly pristine state and have no mammalian predators. The Snares Penguin and the Snares Snipe are endemic species and there is an endemic race of the Fernbird and an all black-race of the Tomtit. The islands are of huge importance for nesting seabirds with 2 million pairs of Sooty Shearwaters and large numbers of Common Diving Petrels. Because of its conservation status – ‘minimum impact’ – we weren’t allowed to land but we cruised close by in Zodiacs in ideal weather conditions and saw all the bird species of interest except the Snipe.
There are about 25,000 pairs of Snares Penguins. The species is closely related to the Fiordland Penguin of the South Island of New Zealand and the Erect-crested of Bounty and Antipodes Islands, but has a much heavier bill (hence the name robustus) and pink skin between the bill and the cheek and throat so it usual now to treat all three as full species. Like all penguins, they are delightful to watch and be watched by and they are quite curious and popped up beside the Zodiac to have a good look.
At the colony we visited, there was a favoured spot for launching into the water and all the seaweed had been worn away. The penguins would wait for a calm period between ocean swells and then dash after the most intrepid into the water.
Landing seemed to be done on a hope and a prayer and the birds would get washed up on the rocks and then scramble to safety. There were several landing spots and these still had seaweed, which presumably cushioned the birds from hard landings.
Snares Penguins lay a clutch of 2 eggs, and breeding success is about 40%. The population is thought to be increasing, though the species is classified as Vulnerable because it depends on a single location. After breeding the bird disperse in the ocean and are recorded as vagrants in mainland New Zealand and Tasmania. The birds take about 4 years to mature and live for about 20 years.
This bird of the week is a bit late as I’ve been busy this week finishing reformatting the ebook Diary of a Bird Photographer. I’ve made each bird of the week section start on a new page to prevent the separation of caption and content. The new version has now been uploaded to the Apple, Google and Kobo bookstores and is recognisable by a re-designed cover. If you have already purchased it, you should be able to upload the latest version from the store. The following cover image links to the Diary page on the Birdway website.
I’ve also been redesigning the website templates to make them more suitable for viewing on smart phones or tablets. The original design was for monitors a width of 1200 pixels, but we live in a more fluid world now. I’ve applied the new design to two families, and I’d be grateful if you could check them your devices and see if they behave: Stilts and Avocets and Barn Owls. I’ve tested them on iPhone and iPad using the browsers Safari and Chrome.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27 NKJV)
Sounds like Ian has been quite busy, but I am thankful he took time to share those Snares Penguins with us. I didn’t pick up how they got their name, but this from Wikipedia explains it further.
“The Snares penguin (Eudyptes robustus), also known as the Snares crested penguin and the Snares Islands penguin, is a penguin from New Zealand. The species breeds on The Snares, a group of islands off the southern coast of the South Island.”
Snares Penguin – Ian’s Birdway
Snare Penguin – Wikipedia
Spheniscidae – Penguin Family