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Fiordland penguin a long way from home

A member of the public spotted this Fiordland crested penguin on Riversdale Beach last month. PHOTO/MILA TOWNSEND/FACEBOOK

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A Fiordland crested penguin found itself a long way from home as it came ashore at Riversdale Beach late last month.

On January 23, a member of the public spotted the bird at the far south end of Riversdale Beach and sent a photograph to the Department of Conservation.

A ranger from DOC Haast confirmed it as a Fiordland crested penguin, which had a normal habitat stretching from Fiordland to Haast, although the penguins could also travel long distances by sea in the search for food.

The DOC ranger thought that the penguin could have been pushed as far north as Wairarapa by a storm. Penguins would usually try to come ashore at the nearest land possible when they started to moult, and this appeared to be the case with the penguin found at Riversdale.

Jim Flack of DOC’s Wairarapa office said that as the penguin did not look injured or distressed, it was “best to let it sort itself out and go back to sea when it is ready”.

Flack said penguins, seals, and sea birds from the far south of New Zealand occasionally found their way to the North Island.

“Their feeding grounds are often a long way from where they go ashore and breed … and they are very skilled finding their way back to where they need to be.”

Although the penguin was seen on a section of Riversdale Beach well beyond the usual dog walking area, DOC advised anyone who came across wildlife to put their dog on a lead, lead it away, and notify other dog owners at the location.

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