blue penguin on eggs

Trust Ranger, Linden Brown, reports that 2021 was one of the best breeding seasons for West Coast blue penguin/ kororā since our monitoring began!

With the recent run of fine weather we have been experiencing on the West Coast, it’s hard to remember that spring was actually quite wet and wild!  This made for some quite challenging conditions for monitoring blue penguin/ kororā, with wet bush and slippery ground being of particular note.  Kororā didn’t seem to mind however, with 2021 being one of the best breeding seasons on the West Coast since monitoring began.

Both of our two fortnightly monitored sites at Charleston had high numbers of breeding burrows, and a high number of chicks fledging from these burrows.  The Rahui colony in particular had an exceptional year, with record numbers of chicks fledged from the colony!  This colony is greatly benefiting from the work that former Ranger and Trustee, Matt Charteris has put into it over the years, including next boxes, trapping, and monitoring.

It appears that one couple whose first clutch failed laid a second clutch, both of whom fledged.  Second clutches are unusual here on the Coast.

Site Monitored Breeding burrows Eggs laid

Chicks hatched

Chicks fledged Chicks per breeding attempt Breeding success Failed breeding attempts
Rahui 31 62 58 58 1.87 93.5% 1
Knoll 23 45 39 37 1.61 82.2% 1

For comparison, the number of monitored breeding burrows the previous year (2020) were 27 at each site and breeding success 85.2% and 66.7% respectively.  A year earlier, the 2019 season, was very different, with 18 and 26 breeding burrows monitored and only 22 and 28 chicks fledged, approximately 61% and 54% respectively.  Sadly that year we found chicks that had died of starvation and dehydration, presumably due to hostile marine conditions possibly associated with El Nino and warmer sea conditions.

blue penguin on eggs
Blue penguin on nest guarding eggs (taken using burrowscope with gopro)

In addition to our two fortnightly monitored colonies, there are several other colonies scattered up and down the Buller coastline which we visit once or twice a breeding season.  These colonies range in size from 1-2 breeding pairs up to around 20 breeding pairs. Although not as intensively monitored as our two key sites, our visits still provide us with valuable insight into population trends at these sites, and a long-term data set to help improve understanding of blue penguin/ kororā on the West Coast.

Site Monitored breeding burrows Chicks seen
Joyce Bay 14 16
Whitehorse 10 14
Bullock Creek 3 6
Punakaiki River 2 1


Walking to work - to monitor penguins
A day in the life of a Ranger – on the way to monitor penguins – not a bad job!

Masters student and our Ranger for the 2019 season, Luisa Salis-Soglio, is working on a scientific paper to share the results of her analysis of our breeding success monitoring between 2006 and 2019.   We will share her findings on our website when the paper is published.