Two weeks of every year penguins are stuck onshore while they moult their old feathers in favour of new.
Description: Little Penguins are the smallest of all penguins and the only species to live permanently in Australian waters. The Little Penguin has a streamlined body, small wings modified as flippers and a tail that acts as a rudder. The feathers provide excellent waterproofing and insulation. They have a grey face, dark blue back, and white chest and abdomen. Their feet are dull yellow and they have a black bill.
Diet: Little Penguins are carnivores and eat fish, including anchovies, pilchards, whitebait and squid.
In the wild: Little Penguins spend a lot of time preening themselves with a wax-like oil from a gland near the base of the tail. If there are any flaws in the plumage, they can lose heat when swimming, which can be fatal. Penguins come ashore in the evening and also to breed and moult. When ashore they live in colonies ranging in size from a few pairs to thousands. Their natural predators include sharks and seals.
Threats: Disturbance to their ocean and beach habitats affects both the survival and breeding of Little Penguins. Ocean threats include overfishing (especially of pilchards, whitebait and squid), the use of gill nets, disturbance from boating, oil spills and related pollution.
On land, predation by cats, dogs and foxes, as well as careless recreational use of beaches, seriously threaten the survival of Little Penguins.
At Perth Zoo: In 1999, Perth Zoo opened a Little Penguin exhibit, the Penguin Plunge. This exhibit is part of the Zoo’s Australian Walkabout and includes a 50,000 litre saltwater pool with limestone reefs and beach areas with coastal vegetation. The whole exhibit is covered by a net which contains Marine Terns that coexist with the penguins. Perth Zoo also breeds Little Penguins. Come and be part of the Penguin Feed at 11.00am every day.
Caught on Film: Perth Zoo is researching penguin reproduction and behaviour using security cameras and temperature and humidity loggers placed inside the penguins’ burrows. The information collected will provide Perth Zoo with a better understanding of the penguins’ nest box preferences as well as optimal temperatures and humidity for breeding. The four films on this page show a penguin sitting on the chicks, feeding them and then the older chicks inside the burrow.
Did you Know?
Penguins have an annual moult, which takes about fifteen days. During this time they are unable to go to sea because they have lost their waterproofing. This is a very stressful time for a penguin, during which they retire to their burrows or shelters and don’t eat.