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 ...