Hoiho and Tarakaka are other names for the yellow-eyed penguin, which is a species endemic to New Zealand. The species breeds on the eastern and south-eastern coastlines of the South Island of New Zealand, as well as Stewart Island, Auckland Islands, and Campbell Islands. Colonies on the Otago Peninsula are a popular tourist venue, where visitors may closely observe penguins from hides, trenches, or tunnels.
Unfortunately, declines in places on the mainland have been precipitous, one such place is the Otago Peninsula, the penguin has seen its population reduce by 75% since just the 1990s. As this reduction has not ended, it is thought that local extinction in the next 20-40 years is a significant possibility. Although direct human effects are not helpful, bigger impacts include the an outbreak of illness and fisheries pollution, which have had a bigger impact. It is the sole member of the genus Megadyptes, despite the original thought that this species closest relation is the little penguin.
- M. a. antipodes, yellow-eyed penguin. The only extant subspecies. Formerly most abundant in the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands, it colonized Stewart Island and part of the South Island after the extinction of the Waitaha penguin.
- M. a. waitaha, Waitaha penguin. Extinct. Was present in the North Island, South Island, Stewart Island, and Codfish Island. Last dated to 1347–1529 AD. Archaeological remains indicate that early Polynesian settlers hunted the species and that this, with possible additional predation by Polynesian rats and dogs, was a probable cause of extinction. Described as a new species M. waitaha in 2009, but reclassified as a subspecies M. a. waitaha in studies from 2019 and 2022
- M. a. richdalei, Richdale’s penguin – Extinct. A dwarf subspecies from the Chatham Islands. Last dated after the 13th century. It was hunted to extinction.
It is the largest penguin to breed on the New Zealand mainland, and the 4th or 5th heaviest species in the world.
Males live longer, and while the average is around 20 years old, by 10-12 years there is a ratio of 2:1 male to female.
The yellow-eyed penguin is mostly silent, though it makes a shrill bray-like call at nest and breeding sites.
It was thought that the range was greater in new Zealand before the Polynesians, however, genetics show that they only arrived on the mainland in the last 200 years. This is thought to be as a result of the Waitaha penguin which went extinct between 1300 and 1500.
It is considered the rarest penguins currently in the wild. It is also thought to be the oldest living penguin species.
There are a variety of places where they can be seen in the wild, including on beaches in Oamaru, the Moeraki lighthouse, a number of beaches near Dunedin, and the Catlins. Unfortunately no-one has ever managed to breed them in captivity, so there is no zoo population to fall back on if they were to be lost from the wild.
Below, there is a Yellow-eyed penguin, and below that is a list of any times it might have been mentioned on here (we have a members area for a variety of groups, one being writers, and wed love to publish articles , do get in touch).
Below that, we intend to list a load of people who can help you stee this animal in the wild, do consider listing your location.