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10 May 2020

Blues News from Pilots Beach

Blue Penguins - Blues News from Pilots Beach

By Hiltrun Ratz

Blues News from Pilots Beach

By Hiltrun Ratz

Week ending May 2020


A lot of penguins were staying at home last week with 162 recorded plus three moulters. It is possible this is the peak and the numbers will decline again next week. The penguins do a lot of running around and exploring and sometimes get themselves into places they can’t get out again. On Thursday two penguins found themselves in the predator trap and on Friday a different penguin was also patiently waiting to be freed from the same trap. I check this trap every morning and released these penguins into neighbouring boxes to be on their way to go fishing the next day. The trap is a live-trap so the penguins were not hurt or damaged in any way, just a little discombobulated.



Left: two penguins trapped in the predator trap on 7 May 20

Right: a different penguin trapped in the same trap on 8 May 20


Other penguin shave started to fight over mates and boxes. On Monday, a mature, established female was found in her box with a strange male. I thought this odd as I knew her mate was alive: they had moulted together not so long ago. Not surprisingly, he was there on Thursday and he looked angry and worse for wear: it must have been quite the fight and it’s anyone’s guess what the other male looked like: he was gone. The owner of the box and female was back and in charge.

Supplementary feeding and rehab

This week I have only been feeding the pre-moult adult and he is gaining weight. When I first got him on 1 April he only weighed 760g and even lost some weight in the first five days. On Friday he weighed 1130g and he still has excellent appetite but unfortunately shows no sign of moulting. It has become apparent why he is struggling to moult: There is a distinct feather loss and scaring on his left hip next to the flipper in the photo below. Old injuries in Yellow-eyed penguins often prevent the penguin from going into the moult in a timely fashion and with good weights. Whilst the injury has healed maybe it is the trauma that intervenes with the normal moulting process and without rehabilitation the penguin dies.

The small chick from B16 has finally died after many days of refusing food or throwing up the food I managed to get it to eat. It had developed cloudy eyes from an infection, and was very wobbly on its legs. There was nothing I could do for it. It is now pushing up a cabbage tree.


Two of the three chicks that were taken to the Moeraki (Penguin Rescue) rehab facility last week to break their habit of returning to Pilots Beach for food, were released on Saturday weighing 900g and 1000g. They were taken to a little penguin box on the foreshore and left there. The volunteers of Penguin Rescue will be checking that they leave but not feed them there so prevent them from developing a habit of expecting food there.

The third chick is still in the rehab facility as it was the least heavy and still needs to gain more weight before it can be released with a reasonably chance of survival.


Left: one of the two chicks released at Moeraki is peaking out of the box entrance.

Right: the little penguin box overlooks the beach and surf.