Rare Penguin comes ashore in Milford Sound
Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki) spotted in Penguin Cove. Photo credit: Katja Preiss
Media release from Southern Discoveries
3 August 2011
Rare Penguin comes ashore in Milford Sound
Rare Fiordland Crested Penguins or ‘Tawaki’ have arrived in Milford Sound for the nesting season, delighting visitors and nature guides aboard Encounter Cruises operated by Southern Discoveries.
The rare sea birds were spotted this week by Encounter Cruise Nature Guide Sara Walker who is thrilled to see the birds back for the breeding season.
“The Tawaki are an icon of Fiordland and one of the rarest penguins in the world. They’re making their homes in the aptly named Penguin Cove and will most likely remain here until November when their chicks will be ready to head out to sea.
“It’s very exciting to spot them and to know how rare and special they are. It’s always a highlight of our trips for visitors when we seem them up close and personal in their natural environment. ”
Visitors on the Encounter Cruise have a very good chance of seeing the distinctive penguins over the next few months as the vessel passes Penguin Cove on its way to the entrance to Milford Sound.
“The Encounter Cruise is a fantastic experience where people can get really close to nature. We’re very aware of our natural environment and work hard to make sure we gently view wildlife activity without disturbing it,” says Ms Walker.
“My job aboard the Encounter Cruise is to introduce people to the majestic surroundings and explain some of the wonders of the local flora and fauna, so an experience like this really is the icing on the cake.”
Southern Discoveries is passionate about preserving Milford Sound’s beauty for future generations and works hard to ensure visitors leave with an understanding and respect for the wild environment. The company is also a key partner in a major Sinbad Sanctuary conservation project in Milford Sound for which it recently won an environment award.
Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki)
The Fiordland Crested Penguin, or Tawaki, is one of the rarest of New Zealand's mainland penguins. Tawaki are monogamous and often mate for life. Although the pairs separate when not breeding, females return each year to the same beach in search of their mate from the previous season. Females lay two white eggs by the end of August. The first egg is generally smaller than the second, and both are incubated for 30-35 days. Most first eggs fail to hatch, or the chicks die of starvation within ten days of hatching. Tawaki cannot raise more than one chick per season, and the first egg is thought to be an insurance policy in case the second egg does not survive. Chicks are brooded by the male, who goes without food for the first three weeks. The chicks then form crèches and are fed by both parents until they become independent and leave the colony in late November or early December.
Like other birds, penguins do not have teeth. Tawaki and other penguins instead have fleshy, backwards pointing spines on their tongue to hold slippery prey, which is swallowed whole without chewing.
Did you know?
Penguins are one of the few birds in the world that moult all of their feathers simultaneously. The moulting takes about two weeks and is very stressful to the birds. They cannot enter the sea during this period as they don't have their waterproof, insulating coat. As a result, birds do not feed and may lose up to half of their body weight during moulting. They are also highly vulnerable to predators at this time.
The best time of year to see Tawaki is during the breeding season from July to November. They may also occasionally be seen during the moulting season from mid-January to early March.
Southern Discoveries is the oldest and most well-established operator in Milford Sound, taking visitors around the fiord on its fleet of modern, comfortable, dolphin-friendly boats to encounter unique wildlife, tumbling waterfalls and the towering beauty and majesty of Mitre Peak. It has a fleet of three spacious catamarans and the Encounter Cruise, and also operates the Blue Duck Café and Bar in Milford Sound.
The Discovery Centre features stunning information panels, videos, pictures and a guided tour which takes customers through a historical journey covering early European settlement and tourism, Maori history, the building of the Homer Tunnel and developments of the Milford Road and Milford Track.
Southern Discoveries also offers scenic cruises, private charters and fishing on Lake Wakatipu.