An erect-crested penguin showed up on the beach near Mangatoetoe, Cape Palliser on Sunday, thousands of kilometres from its home colony.
After being notified of the arrival, the Department of Conservation [DOC] dispatched two rangers to investigate, who found a moulting erect-crested penguin.
A DOC spokesperson said moulting erect-crested penguins were generally uncomfortable and cannot move quickly, making them very vulnerable.
“Erect-crested penguins are seabirds, meaning they live and eat at sea.
“At this time of year, however, they come ashore to moult.”
The spokesperson said moulting lasted for 26 to 30 days and must be done on shore.
“If you see one, do not approach it. Give it lots of space, and keep your dogs on a leash.”
The penguin found near Mangatoetoe had been moved to a safer location away from the public and dogs.
“DOC would like to thank the local family who reported it so quickly so action could be taken to protect it.”
Although erect-crested penguins originate from the Subantarctic Islands, they will come ashore to the closest beach. In this instance, the closest beach was Mangatoetoe, the spokesperson said.
Sightings of erect-crested penguins are uncommon in South Wairarapa, but they aren’t entirely unheard of, and members of the public are advised to report sightings to DOC: “If you see any species that are not usually seen in the area, DOC want to know. Call our 24-hour hotline on 0800 362 468 [0800 DOC HOT].”
The spokesperson said according to ‘The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand’, a small number of erect-crested penguins tried to establish a colony on the Otago Peninsula in the 1930s, the only colony to be found on mainland Aotearoa.
“Unfortunately, they were not successful.”