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Recognising Penguin Awareness Day

Penguin Awareness Day is celebrated on January 20. Phillip Island (Millowl) is home to approximately 40,000 Little Penguins (eudyptula minor). We are in awe of these amazing birds and are delighted to share our Top Ten Little Penguin facts.

Meet the Little Penguin - adorably awkward on land, top predator in the ocean. People visit the Phillip Island Nature Parks Penguin Parade from all around the world, to marvel at these fascinating birds coming ashore every night at sunset. In recognition of this special awareness day, we would like to acknowledge the Bunurong people, who are the traditional owners of the lands and waters of Millowl (Phillip Island). We recognise their role in caring for country over thousands of years and acknowledge the true history of their continued connection to place as we live, work and walk together.

On this day of awareness, we delighted to bring you our Top Ten Penguin Facts:

Top 10 Penguin Facts

  • Little Penguins live up to their name! They are the smallest of all 18 species of penguin, only growing up to around 33cm/1 foot tall and weighing in at 1kg. They are also the only species of penguin with blue and white feathers; all the others are black and white. This type of coloration is called counter camouflage – blue and white feathers of the Little Penguin makes them superbly camouflaged when they are out in the ocean from birds of prey above and seals below.
  • On average Little Penguins only live to about 7 years of age, however this is brought down by a high mortality in their first few years of life. Once a penguin gets to breeding age (2-3yrs) it will likely live into its teens. The oldest penguin we’ve recorded here was 26 years and 4 months old!
  • Little Penguins can spend up to four weeks out at sea at a time, so where do they sleep?! They will quite happily sleep out at sea, floating on the surface of the water, sleeping an average of four minutes at a time.
  • Little Penguins do not mate for life! They are socially monogamous within a breeding season, staying in the same burrow with the same partner. However, they are sexually promiscuous and both the male and female may visit other penguins. About 6.9% of the time males end up raising chicks that aren’t theirs.
  • At the end of each breeding season there is a divorce rate between 18-50%, depending on how successful breeding was in the year before. Pair bonds may last several seasons but if penguins are unsuccessful raising chicks they’re more likely to get a ‘divorce’.
  • Penguins have the highest velocity poo of any animal, projecting their poo up to 50cm! This means if they’re stuck in the burrow during the day they can safely project their poo outside, keeping them safe and their home clean.
  • Little Penguins arrive onto land just after sunset in groups called ‘rafts’. They come in groups for safety in numbers and wait until dark as this is when their natural predators on land, big predatory birds, go to sleep for the night and it’s safest for them to return. After spending a few days on land, penguins will head back out to sea in the morning 1-2 hours before sunrise.
  • Phillip Island is home to an estimated 40,000 adult Little Penguins!
  • Most Little Penguins live in a burrow that the penguins will dig just below the grounds surface and will keep for their entire lives! In areas where the ground is too hard for the penguins to dig, usually due to human disturbance, we have placed wooden nesting boxes for the penguins to live in. This helps them move into new areas while we revegetate.

  • Penguins spend their days out at sea searching for food! They are looking for small fish, like anchovies and pilchard, maybe even a bit of jellyfish and squid. Penguins are generalist feeders meaning they will try just about anything that fits in their beak! Penguins can dive between 200-1300 times a day and down as far as 72 metres! They hunt on the upward stroke as they trap air in their very condensed feathers which helps them maintain positive buoyancy. This is sort of like pushing a basketball full of air underwater and then it shoots up to the surface.

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