Natural Habitat Adventures

Know Before You Go

Yellow-Eyed Penguin Facts | New Zealand Wildlife Guide

The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), or hoiho, is the fourth-largest penguin in the world, and is thought by some scientists to be the most ancient species.

Physical Characteristics

  • A tall and slender bird that stands nearly 2 feet high and weighs between 11 and 18 pounds.
  • As its name suggests, its distinct features are its yellow eyes.
  • The penguin’s coloring is black and white, with the exception of a crown of yellow feathers encircling its head.
  • Males and females look relatively similar, though males frequently have broader heads and feet.
  • During the molting season, their appearance changes due to their pinfeathers.
  • Juvenile birds have gray eyes and dark brown or gray downy feather. They do not have a crown of bright yellow feathers like adults; it is either absent or drab in color.

Habitat & Feeding Habits

The yellow-eyed penguin is found along the southeast coast of the South Island, in addition to the New Zealand islands of Campbell, Auckland, and the coastal forests of Stewart. This carnivorous species feeds mostly on fish and squid and is especially fond of red and blue cod, opal fish, sprat, silversides and ahuru.

Behavior

During molting season, individual birds can lose up to 8 pounds. In the weeks after molting, yellow-eyed penguins return to the ocean in droves, hunting alone or with two or three individuals. This is a social time for the birds, and new feathers are preened, as the penguins feast on the sea’s bounty. The yellow-eyed penguin is a strong swimmer and can typically out swim most predators in the sea. Land predators of this species include wild cats, ferrets, stoats and dogs.

Breeding

The courting season for yellow-eyed penguins begins around the month of May; the breeding season occurs in August with the selection of mates and nest sites. Unlike other penguin species, yellow-eyed penguins refrain from nesting in colonies. They make private nests in the forests of New Zealand and do not socialize with other individuals. They prefer secluded spots that are usually backed by a tree or a log and will not nest in sight of other birds. The only social times occur during mating rituals and after molting. During courtship, yellow-eyed penguins will group with other individuals to look for mates. Calls and certain types of body language indicate whether potential mates are interested. Yellow-eyed penguins form long-term pairs and will only separate if a penguin is infertile or dies.

A yellow-eyed penguin male mounts a female during copulation, rapidly flapping his flippers along her sides, as he fertilizes the female’s two eggs, which have already begun developing. The eggs are laid after 12 days and are incubated 39 to 51 days before hatching. For the chicks’ first six weeks of life, both parents closely guard their young, taking turns each day to dive for fish to feed the chicks.

Once the chicks reach six weeks of age, they are abandoned by both parents who leave in order to feed. Chicks typically remain in the nest until mid-February. Yellow-eyed penguins reach sexual maturity at 2 or 3 years of age for females, and 3 to 5 years for males, with an average lifespan of 23 years.

Conservation

The yellow-eyed penguin is currently an endangered species. An estimated 3,400 breeding yellow-eyed penguins are left in the wild, and the population on the South Island of New Zealand has fallen by 76 percent since 1996. Threats to this species include habitat degradation, predators brought to the islands by humans, ocean pollution, and loss of food sources from overfishing. They are also often disturbed by humans and livestock who inhabit their coastal range.

Header Credit: Kimberley Collins [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
See Penguins of These Adventures
Repeater Layout : vertical-2up
New Zealand Nature Explorer
New Active Walking Options!

New Zealand Nature Explorer

Discover New Zealand's celebrated natural beauty as we combine rare wildlife encounters with the South Island's stunning mountains, glaciers, fjords, coastal rain forest, remote islands and legendary hospitality.
12 Days / Oct–Mar
From $11995 (+air)
Limited to 11 Travelers
New Active Walking Options!
Sailing Antarctica: A Polar Wildlife Expedition
New Itinerary!

Sailing Antarctica: A Polar Wildlife Expedition

Those with a passion for true adventure won't find a more exhilarating thrill than exploring Antarctica on an intimate journey by private motorsailer—kayak and camp on the ice, too!
17 Days / Dec–Feb
From $32595 (+air)
Limited to 7 Travelers
New Itinerary!
Know Before You Go

Get Weekly Updates

Our weekly eNewsletter highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more.
Privacy Policy
We're Proud of the Reputation We’ve Earned
Outside
Voted "World's Best Travel
Company"
by Outside Magazine
Outside
Natural Habitat Adventures Ranked
“Best Outfitter”
NatGeo
Voted Best Winter Trip: Natural Habitat Adventures' Monarch Butterfly Migration, Mexico
VIEW MORE AWARDS

Send Me Travel Emails

Get the Inside Scoop on the

World of Nature Travel

Our weekly eNewsletters highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more. Sign up today!

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Me Travel Emails
Privacy Policy
Thank you for joining our email list

Look for a special welcome message in your inbox, arriving shortly! Be sure to add naturalhabitat@nathab.com to your email contacts so you don’t miss out on future emails.

Request Your 2022 Catalog

Discover the World's Best

Nature Travel Experiences

Nathab 2022 Catalog

Together, Natural Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund have teamed up to arrange nearly a hundred nature travel experiences around the planet, while helping to protect the spectacular places we visit and their wild inhabitants.

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Request Your 2022/2023 Catalog
Continued - Page 2 of 2
To help us customize your catalog request, please tell us more about your travel needs:
Thank you for requesting a catalog
We’ve received your request. If you have any questions about our trips, please feel free to contact an Adventure Specialist today by calling 800-543-8917.

Get Weekly Updatess

Discover the World's Best

Nature Travel Experiences

Our weekly eNewsletter highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more. Sign up today!

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Me Travel Emails
Privacy Policy
Thank you for joining our email list!

Look for a special welcome message in your inbox, arriving shortly! Be sure to add naturalhabitat@nathab.com to your email contacts so you don’t miss out on future emails.

Send Us a Message

Send Us a Message

Have a question or comment? Use the form to the right to get in touch with us.

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Us a Message
Thank you for your message

We’ll be in touch soon with a response.

Refer a Friend

Refer a Friend
Earn rewards for referring your friends! We'd like to thank our loyal travelers for spreading the word. Share your friend's address so we can send a catalog, and if your friend takes a trip as a first-time Nat Hab traveler, you'll receive a $250 Nat Hab gift card you can use toward a future trip or the purchase of Nat Hab gear. To refer a friend, just complete the form below or call us at 800-543-8917. It's that easy! See rules and fine print here.
Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Refer a Friend

Earn rewards for referring your friends! We'd like to thank our loyal travelers for spreading the word. Share your friend's address so we can send a catalog, and if your friend takes a trip as a first-time Nat Hab traveler, you'll receive a $250 Nat Hab gift card you can use toward a future trip or the purchase of Nat Hab gear. To refer a friend, just complete the form below or call us at 800-543-8917. It's that easy! See rules and fine print here.

Thank you for the referral!

We've received your friend's information.

View Our 2023 Digital Catalog

View Our 2023

Digital Catalog

Help us save paper! We offer a digital version of The World's Greatest Nature Journeys. If you'd prefer a mailed copy, please provide your contact details here. To view our digital catalog, please enter your info in the form to the right.
Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
View Digital Catalog
Happy browsing!

Thanks for requesting access to our digital catalog. Click here to view it now. You’ll also receive it by email momentarily.

Our Trips

Polar Bear Tours

Polar Bear Tours

African Safaris

African Safaris

U.S. National Parks Tours

U.S. National Parks Tours

Alaska Adventures

Alaska Adventures

Canada & the North

Canada & the North

Galapagos Tours

Galapagos Tours

Mexico & Central America Tours

Mexico & Central America Tours

South America Adventures

South America Adventures

Europe Adventures

Europe Adventures

Asia & Pacific Adventures

Asia & Pacific Adventures

Antarctica & Arctic Journeys

Antarctica & Arctic Journeys

Adventure Cruises

Adventure Cruises

Photography Adventures

Photography Adventures

Family Adventures

Family Adventures

New Adventures

New Adventures

Questions? Call 800-543-8917

Contact Us

Have a question or comment?
Click any of the buttons below to get in touch with us.

Hours
Mountain Time

  • 8 am to 5 pm, Monday - Friday
  • 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday
  • Closed on Sunday
Call 800-543-8917
Questions? Click to Chat
Questions? Click to Chat
/know-before-you-go/asia-the-pacific/new-zealand/wildlife-guide/yellow-eyed-penguins/