Rockhopper penguin in Edinburgh Zoo Photo:
the past, the three Rockhopper Penguin species were considered subspecies,
but they are now considered full species. The subspecies recognized
in the past were:
Western Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes
chrysocome chrysocome, or American Southern Rockhopper Penguin
It occurs in subantarctic waters of the western Pacific and Indian
Oceans, as well as around the southern coasts of South America.
The Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome filholi,
or Indopacific Southern Rockhopper Penguin - breeds on subantarctic
islands of the Indo-Pacific Ocean: Prince Edward, Crozet, Kerguelen,
Heard, Macquarie, Campbell, Auckland
and the Antipodes Islands.
penguin colony on Saunders Island, Falkland Islands Photo:
The Northern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome moseleyi.
More than 99% of Northern Rockhoppers breed on
Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island in the south Atlantic Ocean.
A study published in 2009 showed that the world population of the
Northern Rockhopper had declined by 90% since the 1950s.
For this reason, the Northern Rockhopper Penguin is classified as
an Endangered species.
Rockhopper penguin is the smallest yellow-crested, black-and-white
penguin in the genus Eudyptes.
It reaches a length of 45-58 cm (18-23 in) and typically weighs
2-3.4 kg (4.4-7.5 lb), although there are records of exceptionally
large rockhoppers weighing 5 kg (11 lbs). It has slate-grey upper
parts and a straight, bright yellow eyebrow ending in long
yellowish plumes projecting sideways behind a red eye.
Western Rockhopper Penguins have a global population of roughly
1 million pairs. About two-thirds of the global population belongs
to this former subspecies which breeds on the Falkland Islands and
on islands off Argentina and southern Chile.
These penguins feed on krill, squid, octopus, lantern fish, molluscs,
plankton, cuttlefish, and mainly crustaceans.
A rockhopper penguin named "Rocky" in Bergen Aquarium
in Norway, lived to 29 years 4 months. It died in October 2003.
This stands as the age record for rockhopper penguins, and possibly
it was the oldest penguin known.
Photo: Dave Houston, www.penguin.net.nz
The Western Rockhopper Penguin is classified as Vulnerable species
by the IUCN. Its population has declined by about one-third
in the last thirty years. However, the Northern Rockhopper's population
is only a fraction of that of the Western Rockhopper
Penguin, and consequently the status of the latter is unchanged
by the taxonomic split.
study published in 2009 showed that the world population of the
Northern Rockhopper had declined by 90% since the 1950s,
possibly because of climate change, changes in marine ecosystems
and overfishing for squid and octopus by humans.
Other possible factors in the decline include disturbance and pollution
from ecotourism and fishing, egg-harvesting,
predation from introduced House Mice, Mus musculus, and predation
and competition from Subantarctic Fur Seals, Arctocephalus tropicalis.
The Northern Rockhopper Penguin is classified as Endangered because
of the decline in numbers over the last three
generations (or 30 years).
wings help dissipate heat
Photo: Dave Houston,
Their common name refers to the fact that, unlike many other penguins
which get around obstacles by sliding on their bellies
or by awkward climbing using their flipper-like wings as aid, Rockhoppers
will try to jump over boulders and across cracks.
This behaviour is by no means unique to this species however - at
least the other "crested" penguins of the genus Eudyptes
hop around rocks too. But the Rockhopper's congeners occur on remote
islands in the New Zealand region, whereas the
rockhopper penguins are found in places that were visited by explorers
and whalers since the Early Modern era.
Hence, it is this particular species in which this behavior was
Their breeding colonies are located from sea-level to cliff-tops
and sometimes inland. Their breeding season starts in
September and ends in November. Two eggs are laid but only one is
usually incubated. Incubation lasts 35 days and their
chicks are brooded for 26 days.
in many penguin species, male Rockhoppers are capable of producing
'milk' from their digestive systems which they then
regurgitate for their chicks when the female is away hunting for
by Dr Ruedi Abbuehl about Rockhopper Penguins in the Falkland Islands.
Original Music by Rupert Coffey of Ossicles Limited.
Both macaroni and rockhopper penguins feed
mostly on krill, but partially switch to fish
and squid when they feed their chicks, or when krill populations
crash. They usually dive
to 10-80 m, and are are more migratory
than king pingviner. Their breeding season is
highly synchronized breeding season, with all eggs in a colony
laid within 2-3 weeks.
Birds start arriving to colonies in October, and leave in
Unlike king pingviner, they build nests of grass and pebbles
and lay two eggs.
The first egg is usually smaller and seldom hatches. The numbers
of both species are
apparently stable at the moment.