Happy World Penguin Day!
Happy World Penguin Day!
By Damien Martin
One by one, they waddle out of the surf and onto the beach. Two or three wide, they scuttle on, hunched forward, headed home after a long day. Occasionally, one bumps into the neighbor in front. It’s starting to get dark, after all, and they’re in a rush. It’s not always easy being a little penguin.
This rush hour traffic jam takes places every evening at sunset on Australia’s Phillip Island, about 2 hours outside Melbourne. And, yes, Little penguins is the official name for the world’s smallest penguin species, standing between 1 and 1½ feet tall.
For the best view of the Penguin Parade, you need one of the 300 daily tickets for the viewing platform at Summerland Beach. The tiered seating offers 180-degree sightlines as the penguins march from their fishing waters to their sand dune burrows. You can also get an up-close view from underground window (limited to 70 people), watch from an elevated tower (10 people) or head off in a small group (limited to 10 people) to a secluded beach for a private parade.
To celebrate World Penguin Day, here are just a few other spots where you can make new feathered friends.
Cape Town, South Africa
Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach on False Bay have been home to flocks of African penguins since they first made their way there from Dyer Island in 1983. Boardwalks on Boulders Beach help visitors get an up-close look, and conservation initiatives are under way to provide safe breeding grounds for the endangered birds once known as Jackass penguins because of their distinctive call.
Tierra del Fuego, Chile/Argentina
In recent years, a colony of King penguins began nesting around Useless Bay. These are the only King penguin flocks to be found outside the Sub-Antarctic islands. King penguins, second in size to Emperor penguins, can be found in the archeological record of the area dating back thousands of years but disappeared after European colonization. Southern Rockhopper penguins have also joined the Kings around Useless Bay, and Tierra del Fuego is also home to Gentoo and Magellanic penguins.
Otago Peninsula, New Zealand
Outside Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island, you can find Yellow-Eyed and Little (aka Blue) penguins. Penguin Place is a conservation project on the peninsula that provides breeding grounds for Yellow-Eyed penguins and offers daily tours. Blue penguin tours take place in Pukekura Park at dusk when the birds come home for the night.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
One of the many ecological wonders of its home islands, the Galapagos penguin is the only penguin species that can be found north of the Equator (by just a few miles). It is the second-smallest penguin species, with an average weight of just more than 5 pounds. El Niño seasons make food scarce for the penguins, and thus reduce breeding, put the future of this species in jeopardy.
Of course, the largest variety of penguins is on the White Continent, home to any number of species, including the main attraction: Emperor penguins. At nearly 4 feet tall on average, the largest penguins in the world are specially adapted to survive harsh winters in wind chills that can reach 75 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.