The aptly named Rockhopper penguins hop with extraordinary agility
to get around the steep, rocky islands where they live and breed.

Size  18 inches tall and weighs 5 to 10 pounds

Diet  Krill, squid and small fish

Lifespan  Average of 10 years, but up to 30 years

Range  Rugged islands around the sub-Antarctic

Habitat  Breed on rugged, rocky islands located in the

sub-Antarctic and south temperate regions of the Indian

and South Atlantic Oceans

Predators  Natural predators include blue sharks, leopard seals and sea lions;

skuas, giant petrels, gulls and birds of prey are predators of eggs and chicks.

Southern rockhopper penguins also face introduced predators such as cats,

rats and pigs

Relatives  There are 18 penguin species. Southern rockhopper penguins are

the only species that will dive into the ocean feet first rather than head first.

Family life  Rockhoppers return to the same breeding site each year and

even use the same nest when possible. They are known to breed in colonies

of up to 100,000 birds! The breeding season begins in October. Females lay two

eggs in November. After around 33 days of incubation the chicks hatch. Chicks are

not born with the yellow crests on their heads.

Conservation status  Vulnerable  Pollution, climate change, overfishing and shifts in fish populations are taking food sources away from southern rockhopper penguins. Their cousins, northern rockhopper penguins, are classified as Endangered, which is a higher risk of extinction, because they face similar food shortages in addition to introduced predators such as rats on their breeding islands.

Penguins and climate change  Rockhopper penguins have been disappearing from the southern oceans and over the past three to four decades their numbers have dropped dramatically. The northern rockhopper penguin has declined by 57 percent and southern rockhopper penguin by 34 percent. Scientists surmise that climate change and the associated warming of the ocean surrounding their habitats may have caused these large population declines. Read more ...

Explore other profiles   Check out little blue penguins and green sea turtles.