October 18, 2011, 5:27 pm
Content Cover Image

Nesting pair of Yellow-eyed penguins, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand. @ C.Michael Hogan

Source Christian Mehlführer/Wikipedia
Conservation Status

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum:--- Chordata
Class:------ Aves (Birds)
Order:-------- Sphenisciformes
Family:-------- Spheniscidae (Penguins)
Genus:--------- Megadyptes
Species:--------Megadyptes antipodes (Hombron & Jacquinot, 1841)

Megadyptes is a genus of just one penguin species (a monotypic genus) within the penguin family of seventeen species: the Yellow-eyed penguin is the sole species within this genus.

Yellow-eyed penguins are distinctive in that they do not breed in dense colonies like other penguins, but in single pairs or loose groups with nests at a distance and out of sight of other nests.

Like all penguins, the  Yellow-eyed penguin is characterized by its erect posture, stiff wings (flippers), excellent swimming ability, awkward movement out of water, and coloring. The black back and white front, make penguins difficult to see when swimming, blending against the sea from above and the sky from below.

The Yellow-eyed penguin is similar to the Crested penguins because of its reddish bill and yellow head feathers. This may indicate a that the genus Megadyptes is evolutionarily close to the genus Eudyptes.

The Yellow-eyed penguin is found in the New Zealand sub-Antarctic regions. It is found on the southeast coast of South Island and in the coastal forests of Stewart Island. It can also be found on Auckland and Campbell Islands

The Yellow-eyed penguin is an endangered species. A 1992 estimate concluded that 5930 to 6970 individuals lived in New Zealand. However, not all of these birds were breeders. Drops in numbers of Megadyptes antipodes are attributed to destruction of habitat, fires, overgrazing, predation, and food shortages. Humans and livestock also disturb this penguin. Predators on Megadyptes antipodes include feral cats, ferrets, stoats and dogs.

Many efforts are being made to save the yellow-eyed penguin. The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust has set out to protect the species habitat, create reserves, fence in breeding areas and control predators. The New Zealand Department of Conservation in conjunction with the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society has also set out to help the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust. This species is protected under law by the Wildlife Act of 1953.

Further Reading

  • Encyclopedia of Life. 2010. Megadyptes
  • F.A.Bisby, Y.R.Roskov, T.M.Orrell, D.Nicolson, L.E.Paglinawan, N.Bailly, P.M.Kirk, T.Bourgoin, G.Baillargeon, eds. 2009. Species 2000: Reading, UK.Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2009 Annual Checklist.
  • P.J.Moore, E.D.Murray, J.A.Mills, B.McKinlay, D.Nelson, B. Murphy. 1991. Results of pilot study (1990-1991): marine based activities of yellow-eyed penguin. In: Science and Research Internal Report No. 110: yellow-eyed penguin research and monitoring studies. Wellington, Department of Conservation. 29 pages


Saundry, P. (2011). Megadyptes. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbee6d7896bb431f697c26


To add a comment, please Log In.