Fiordland crested penguin, Tawaki, Thick-billed penguin, Fjordland penguin, Fjordland crested penguin
The Fiordland penguin is a medium-sized penguin with a wide, yellow band on its eyebrow, which starts at each nostril, stretching above the eyes down the neck, and forming a crest. The orange beak is relatively large, bordered with a thin line of black skin at its base. Meanwhile, beaks of males are noticeably larger than these of females. Their under parts are silky white while the upper parts are blue-grey/black, being darker on the head. By the time of their annual molt, the upper parts usually become brown. When the bird is nervous, 3-6 whitish streaks appear on its cheeks. The Fiordland penguin has brownish red eyes. The upper parts of feet and legs are pinkish-white, while the soles and back parts of the limbs are blackish-brown. Juveniles are identified by short, thin bands on their eyebrows, colored with pale yellow. In addition, the chin and throat of juveniles are whitish and speckled. After fledging, the chicks have bluish dorsal plumage, which wears out, eventually fading to black, and turning to mid-brown by their first molt.
This penguin is a New Zealand bird. The breeding areas of the birds are Stewart Island together with Fiordland coast and its offshore islands. The Fiordland penguins nest in wide variety of habitats, including sea caves, mature temperate rain forest and dense coastal shrub. They can also be seen nesting under rock boulders. The penguins occur among roots, boulders as well as in hollows of fallen trees and crevices in rocks.
Fiordland penguins are nocturnal animals. These birds are extremely timid and shy. During the nighttime hours, the penguins are usually active on land. During the day, however, the animals stay in their nesting sites, where they hide from intruders. During the winter, they live solitarily in the ocean for several months. They come ashore in July, by the approaching of the breeding season. These penguins gather into loosely organized nesting colonies. The nests are typically located under bushes, in crevices of rocks or among tree roots. They choose secluded nesting sites, in order to be out of sight of one another. The Fiordland penguins communicate via barking sounds while out at sea, using various visual and vocal signals when on land.
Fiordland penguins have monogamous mating system, where each male mates with only one female. The breeding season lasts from July to August. They nest in the same sites, which they used during the previous breeding season. Male penguins usually arrive at the breeding sites in July, shortly before the females. Soon the females arrive, laying 2 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 30-36 days. During the incubation period, the male and the female take turns on the nest, going out to sea one by one. The hatchling is kept on its father's feet, who guards and cares for the chick, while the mother provides the young with food, taking her daily foraging trips to the sea. By the age of 3-4 weeks, the young penguin joins a small crèche of other chicks, though both parents continue feeding the hatchling. Fledging occurs in November, at the age of 75 days. They first breed at 5 years old, typically returning to their home colony, where they lay eggs and raise the chicks.
On land, the penguins are threatened by stoats and other introduced predators of the area. At their breeding colonies, where they live from June to March, the birds are threatened by oil spills. They are often accidently caught in set nets and inshore trawl nets, used by fisheries. Meanwhile, those, breeding or molting nearby roads, are occasionally killed by dogs as well as hit by cars. In general, the species is currently exposed to human disturbance at its breeding and molting sites, which negatively affects their population: humans make the penguins flee from their nests, which lead to nest predation as well as starvation during the molt; meanwhile, human disturbance on land can cause reduction of fledging weights and decrease percentage of first year survival.
The overall population of the Fiordland penguin is presently decreasing, being estimated at 5,500-7,000 mature birds. On the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Vulnerable.