Experts on Australia’s “penguin island” Phillip Island have counted more penguins than ever before: At the weekend, 5,440 penguins returned to the beach after foraging for food in the evening. In total, the colony on the island has swelled to 40,000 birds. The flightless little penguins reproduce well thanks to ideal feeding conditions.
Sydney.More penguins live on Australia’s “penguin island” Phillip Island than ever before: At the weekend, 5,440 penguins returned to the beach after foraging for food in the evening. In total, the colony on the island has swelled to 40,000 birds. The flightless little penguins reproduce well thanks to ideal feeding conditions.
Phillip Island is a 90 minute drive from Melbourne. The island, which is just 100 square kilometers in size, is known for its population of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) known. Watching the flightless birds ‘waddle’ back to shore each evening is one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions.
In earlier years, these “Little Penguins” were like the little ones penguins of the world in Australia are not always good. Especially in the vicinity of the cities, their habitat has been affected. In Sydney, for example, little penguins are regularly delivered to veterinary hospitals after being attacked by dogs or entangled in fishing line or other debris. The penguin population on Phillip Island also collapsed in the 1980s. Since then, however, the animals and their habitat have been better protected and their numbers are now developing more than positively again.
Largest little penguin colony in the world
On Saturday, gamekeepers on the island counted 5,440 penguins that came ashore to return to their nests after foraging in the sea that evening. So many birds had not been sighted since counts began in 1968. A total of around 40,000 little penguins now live on the island – the colony is the largest in the world. Around 40 years ago, when the numbers had slipped to an all-time low, there were just 12,000 animals.
This positive news also had to sink in with the rangers: “It took us a day to check whether we were really right – but our little penguins undoubtedly broke another record,” said Paula Wasiak from Phillip Island Nature Parks. “We knew there were a lot of penguins, but nobody expected this record-breaking show!”
Weather phenomenon called La Niña as the reason
The Penguins picked the right night to set their new record – more than 2,000 spectators watched from the stands on Saturday. The penguins would benefit from the abundant food supply near Phillip Island, Wasiak explained. So the chicks are currently at a good weight. The latter also indicates that the food supply is good, said the penguin expert.
Penguins eat smaller fish, but also squid and jellyfish. Sardines and anchovies in particular are almost a “superfood” for penguins, Wasiak said. And these are in abundance right now. The animals appear to be benefiting from the currently prevailing weather phenomenon, La Niña, which is bringing sufficient rainfall to Australia. This creates ideal conditions and brings more fish closer to the coast, explained the game warden. This in turn benefits the penguins, who can then catch the fish more easily. The good food situation has meanwhile even led to some penguins breeding not only in spring but also in autumn, which means that more young than normal are born.
Also a sensation on the internet
Little penguins are the only penguins native to Australia. The birds, which are just 35 centimeters tall, live mainly on the southern coast of Australia and on Tasmania, but there are also smaller colonies in Sydney. The birds are excellent swimmers and can cover distances of over 1200 kilometers. During the day they are mostly at sea to fish and only return to land in the evening. Despite their unsteady gait, little penguins can climb very well and can also reach nests and caves that are in more impassable terrain on the cliffs.
As well as Phillip Island in the state of Victoria, there are also guided tours on Kangaroo Island in South Australia to see the nightly penguin spectacle when hundreds or, in the case of Phillip Island, thousands of the little penguins wiggle ashore to settle into their nests for the night. Australia’s Phillip Island Nature Park also streams its nightly penguin parade live on the island – on the YouTube channel “Live Penguin TV“ tune in people from all over the world every day.