Backyard Buddies
Little Penguins

Photo: M Kuhn

Little Penguins

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Little Penguins are also called fairy penguins. They are the smallest species of penguin in the world.

They weigh just 1 kg and are only 30–40 cm tall. While excellent swimmers, they cannot fly.

Often they have the same mate for life. Both parents feed and care for the young, who leave the nest at 7–9 weeks and live for up to 12 years.

There is a colony of Little Penguins living in the middle of Sydney – at Manly.

Little Penguins come ashore to breed, raise chicks and moult. They nest in burrows or among rocks on the harbour foreshores at Manly – sometimes even in people’s backyards or under houses.

You can see them from a boat or the Manly ferry as they swim and fish around the harbour. You may even see them at the beach. And, if you’re quiet, you may hear them calling with a short sharp bark – or even making growling noises.

But we can’t take these backyard buddies for granted.

Little Penguins need a little help

Little Penguins used to be common. But today the colony at Manly is the last one on mainland New South Wales. Other colonies do exist, but on islands off the coast. So the Manly colony is even more special – and worth protecting. That’s why all penguin nesting areas around Manly have been declared ‘critical habitat’.

Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies— to give you tips to help.

What is a backyard buddy?

Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built-up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. The Little Penguin is a backyard buddy.

Backyard buddies are also the local people who value the living things around them, such as the Little Penguin, and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes.

So you can be a backyard buddy.

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care... and take a few simple steps.

Step one is to find out what Little Penguins do and do not like.

Little Penguins love:

Personal space – especially around their burrows during breeding season.

Quiet after dark – so they can get safely from their burrows into the water to find food and back again.

Clean healthy water – with lots of seagrass brimming with anchovies, pilchards, squid and krill.

But they don’t like:

Dogs on the foreshore – which can kill or frighten adult penguins, leaving chicks without care.

Cats and foxes – which hunt Little Penguins in their burrows and on the land.

Discarded fishing line and hooks – which strangle Little Penguins or injure their flippers and feet

Be a Little Penguin buddy on land

Be a Little Penguin buddy on the water

Adopt this Buddy

Find out more about your buddies

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