Auckland Islands: Yelloweyed Penguins
Yelloweyed penguins are the rarest penguins in the world, there are only around 1500-2000 left. They have declined drastically on New Zealand mainland but are doing relatively ok on the Auckland Islands, their largest population. The penguins are midsized and have very distinct yellow eyes and a patch of yellow around their heads making them look like some superhero characters from the Marvel universe. Genetically, yelloweyed penguin are distinct from both the crested penguins and the king/emperor penguins, they are descendants of an ancient penguin species that is now extinct. The penguins are 62–80 centimetres (24–30 in) tall and weigh 3–9 kilograms (6.5–19 lb). The yelloweyed penguins are very shy, but on Auckland they come out easily into the open – we saw probably 2-3 dozen of them including smaller juveniles (interestingly, the juveniles don’t have the yellow patch around their heads). They frolicked on the grass, ran across the beach full of sea lions, climbed up on hills, and walk into the woods across flower field. An absolutely penguin paradise!