The Little Penguin

There are 18 species of penguin. The Little Penguin is the smallest and the only one to breed in Australia.

On Phillip Island, burrows are usually made in the sand dunes during the winter months and are held together with native grasses and Bower spinach.

Around The Nobbies and the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre, penguins also nest in rehabilitated areas in wooden nesting boxes provided by Phillip Island Nature Parks.

Egg laying starts in winter and can continue until December, with two whitish eggs being laid.

Penguin in nesting box on Phillip Island

Little Penguin in nesting box

Once the eggs have hatched the parents take turns at guarding the chicks and going out fishing.

As the chicks get older both parents need to go out fishing to get enough fish for their growing offspring.

At about 8 weeks the chicks are ready to go to sea.

An adult little penguin grows to about 45cm.

Although some penguins come ashore every night, some months are busier than others. At the end of the breeding season around April and May there is less activity.

The penguins enter and leave the sea in groups as protection against predators.

Although the little penguin does not fly in the air, it “flies” in the water. It feeds by circling schools of small fish, then charging in and eating.

Moulting penguins under the boardwalk at The Nobbies, Phillip Island

Moulting penguins under the boardwalk at The Nobbies

Penguins stay at sea for several weeks to feed and build up body fat before the moulting season.

While moulting, which can take two or three weeks, they stay on land.

Quick Penguin Facts

  • penguins mate for life
  • stand around 35cm tall and weigh around 1.5 kg
  • lay two eggs
  • parents share incubation, one sits on the eggs while one is fishing at sea
  • shifts can last up to ten days
  • penguins eat fish, krill and squid
  • can dive up to 20 metres but usually dive only around two metres
  • can remain underwater up to one minute
  • must stay ashore when they moult
  • have a life span of 10 to 20 years

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