Description & Characteristics:
Erect-crested penguins are perhaps some of the rarest and most mysterious of the penguins. Secluded in huge colonies on the bare, exposed rocks of the Bounty Islands and on the tussock-clad beaches and cliffs of the Antipodes Islands, they are often left undisturbed and unstudied. Only recently have scientists begun to observe the behaviors of this remote and elusive species.
The characteristic features of this species are the distinctive upward-sweeping crests of long brush-like feathers which extend from the base of the bill to the top of the head. The penguins are able to raise and lower these stiff crest feathers, which none of the other crested penguins can do. Erect-crested penguins have chocolate brown eyes, and parallel sides on the top horny ridge of the bill.
It is thought that Erest-crested penguins dine on fish and krill near the surface of the sea and that they may travel great distances in search of food.
The males return to breeding colonies in September with the females following two weeks later. Erect-crested penguins are very sociable and nest in large, raucous colonies located close to and in association with colonies of Rockhoppers. Fighting over nests is a frequent occurrence at these colonies as prime nesting locations are often hard to come by and competition can be fierce.
The nests themselves are simple affairs often comprising just a few stones and a little mud, and are sometimes lined with grasses. Two eggs are laid, the first of which is usually lost due to neglect, failure to fertilize or misdirection of a hormonal signal. The second egg is up to twice the size of the first and is the only one seriously incubated. The chicks fledge in February and the adults return to sea for the winter after molting in March.
Erect-crested penguins are preyed upon by skuas and Fur seals.
- The Erect-crested penguin is only 'crested' penguin found in the New Zealand subantarctic region.
- Erect-crested penguins are easily confused with the Fjordland and Snare's Island penguins, particularly at sea.
- For safety and security, these penguins often climb very steep rock faces to breed on ledges and platforms.