Philip Island, Australia (WHTM)- Earlier in May, visitors to Philips Island, Australia got to see a record setting event.
Philips Island is located on the south coast of Australia (about a 90-minute drive from Melbourne). It’s cared for by Philips Island Nature Parks, a nonprofit conservation organization that conducts ecotourism activities — including the daily Little Penguin Parade.
That’s actually their name-Little Penguin, also known as Little Blue Penguin, Fairy Penguin, and Korora in Maori. They are the smallest penguin species in the world, and they really are very small-they’ve been described as “the size of a bowling pin.”
Little Penguins spend their days out in the ocean, looking for food. (They like anchovies.) They might, in fact, spend a month out at sea. As night falls, they waddle ashore to their burrows. The Little Penguin colony at Philips Island is one of the largest, if not the largest, with population estimates ranging from 32,000 to 40,000 birds. The park has established a viewing area on Summerland Beach, where people can gather on bleachers to watch the spectacle, without interfering with the birds. Occasionally they will livestream the event for those of us stuck on the other side of the planet.
On the evening of May 3, 5,219 penguins crossed the beach in the space of 50 minutes-the most penguins to show up in one evening since they started keeping records. What makes this even more remarkable is this happened outside the traditional spring/summer breeding period. Why the big numbers? According to the Penguin Foundation, “It might be that the prolonged La Nina event that we are seeing is bringing penguin food close to shore, and together with the Autumn breeding attempt (remember, it’s autumn in Australia) that is currently occurring, a lot of penguins are doing single day trips and then returning to their burrows.”
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Wouldn’t you know it, the record-setting event happened on one of the nights that they weren’t livestreaming. According to Lisa Gilbert, Managing Director for HeadlinePR, “Unfortunately there’s no video of the record night, because no one knew it was going to be a record until afterwards! When we film the penguins coming in, we have to follow lots of rules around lighting and interference etc, so it’s quite a set up to actually film them.”
If you want to view a livestream of the Penguin Parade, it can be viewed on Facebook and YouTube. Keep in mind that Philips Island is 14 hours ahead of us-if a Penguin Parade starts at 6 p.m. there, it will be 4 a.m. here. If you don’t feel like dragging yourself out of bed at the wee hours, Philips Island also posts previous livestreams on Facebook and YouTube. They also run a livestream of the interior of a penguin burrow.
Little Penguins frequent the shores of both Australia and New Zealand. Once thought to be just one species, genetic analysis in 2016 revealed the New Zealand and Australia populations are actually two species. Eudyptula minor hang out in New Zealand; Eudyptula novaehollandiae call Australia home. The genus name Eudyptula, by the way, translates as “good little diver”.
To visit the Philips Island Nature Parks home page, click here.
To see the Penguin Parade live streams, click here.
To see the recorded live streams, click here.
To see the Burrow Cam, click here.