Backyard Buddies
Little Penguin

Photo: FNPW Image Library

Little Penguin

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Australia's Little Penguin is the world's smallest penguin. 

A lightweight of just about 1kg, it is also called the Fairy Penguin. By comparison, the Emperor Penguin, the largest of the world's 18 penguin species, weighs up to 38 kg.

The Little Penguin's Latin name Eudyptula minor means 'good little diver', an accurate description of this species.

With a body shaped like a torpedo, its wings transformed into flippers, and its plumage waterproof, the Little Penguin is perfectly adapted for life at sea.

All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, from the South Pole to the equatorial Galapagos Islands.

Australia's own Little Penguin lives along the southern edge of mainland Australia and in Tasmania, and it also occurs in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands.

Most breeding pairs live in colonies, although some nest on their own. Most colonies are on islands, with only scattered locations left on the mainland. So you are extremely unlikely to find one in your own backyard, but you can help keep them safe if they live nearby.

Their upper parts and back are greyish blue, while their underside is white. This camouflage - something they have in common with the Great White Shark - makes them almost invisible from above as well as from below as they zoom through the water catching fish.

When they come ashore, however, the birds' dark upper plumage stands out distinctively against the sand - one of the reasons why the Little Penguins wait until dark before they return to their burrows. The penguins of Phillip Island, Victoria give visitors a nightly display during the penguin parade.

Being somewhat clumsy and poorly camouflaged on land is not the only safety hazard in a Little Penguin's life. Their natural predators are leopard seals, sea lions, orcas and sea eagles who take the occasional penguin at sea. What can really spell trouble for the breeding colonies though is a human neighbourhood with its noise, disturbance, development, weeds overgrowing their burrows, dogs and foxes. In the water oil spills, damage to sea grass beds, plastic and other debris can become a hazard.

Little Penguins love:

 

But they don't like:

If you live near Little Penguins there's a lot you can do to be a buddy:

A few more Little Penguin facts

Adopy This Buddy

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Photo: OEH