Woodborough Farmhouse

Royal Penguins

The Royal penguin is a crested penguin found only on Macquarie Island, a sub-antarctic island south of New Zealand and Australia. In appearance it is very like the Macaroni penguin except that it has a white rather than black face. It is found in very large numbers and forms very dense rookeries, nesting on piles of stones. The species name is Eudytpes Schlegeli and they are therefore one of the brushtail species. They have thick short orange beaks and pink feet. The yellow crest covers the entire head from the base of the beak and swept back. It is less pronounced in juveniles. Scientific opinion varies as to whether this species is actually a sub-species of the Macaroni penguin but it seems as if the expert authorities (eg Peter Harrison) are of the opinion that the species is separate.

Royal penguins are approximately 28 inches long and are quite agressive towards one another. It is currently estimated that there about 850,000 breeding pairs on Macquarie island in very large rookeries which may have as many as 200,000 birds. About 100 years ago, a permit was issued for the hunting of these penguins (as well as King Penguins) for oil. Hunting is perhaps a euphemism because as these birds show no fear of humans it was an easy matter to collect them in very large numbers where they were bolied (sometimes alive) to produce approximately 1 pint of oil per bird. As many as 150,000 penguins were taken each year.

These pictures were taken in November 2011 on Macquarie Island. Unfortunately, the weather was bad (heavy rain) but you can see them on a beach (Sandy Bay) and also in a large rookery half a mile inland. Some of the penguins were guarding newly hatched chicks.