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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Little Penguin Eudyptula minor

This is the smallest penguin, and it is also the only one that remains offshore during daylight, coming onto land after dark. It has a white underside, a gray-blue back and head, and no distinctive markings. During daylight, little penguins are often seen in small flotillas offshore, resting on the surface and periodically diving to catch fish. When feeding, they circle around small fish to concentrate them into a close-knit group, before swimming through the shoal and snapping them up. Unlike other penguins, they do not leave the water when they travel at speed. Little penguins usually nest in burrows or among fallen rocks, but may set up home in breakwaters and under houses and sheds. Each female lays a clutch of two eggs and raises up to two broods a year.

Safety after dark

In some parts of their range—such as Phillip Island, near Melbourne—thousands of little penguins can be seen scrambling ashore as the light fades. This behavior protects them from most predators, although not from introduced mammals such as foxes and domestic dogs.

Little Penguinzoom image
  • Order Sphenisciformes
  • Height 16–18 in (40–45 cm)
  • Weight 2 lb (1 kg)
  • Habitat Rocky and muddy coasts, open ocean
  • Distribution Southern Australia, New Zealand, Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean
Little Penguin Habitat Mapzoom image