The West Coast Penguin Trust has maintained an active interest in the Ōkārito kororā colony since it was first surveyed in 2008 and has resurveyed the colony every few years since then.

Okarito penguin colony coastal landscape
The penguin colony area, south of Okarito

In late October, Ranger Linden Brown resurveyed the colony for the first time since 2018. Unlike most kororā colonies on the West Coast, the penguins here are safe from dogs and cars, and human disturbance and the effect of introduced predators are minimal; it is little surprise that the penguin colony here is the largest on the West Coast.

Stepping onto the beach it is obvious that there are a lot of penguins; the sand is almost continuously criss-crossed by penguin tracks! Almost a step back in time to what things would have been like before humans and introduced predators.

penguin tracks
Many penguin tracks visible as penguins safely navigate the beach, far from dogs and vehicles

The colony is split into distinct north and south areas. Penguin numbers have stayed more or less consistent over the years, and this year was no different with over 40 breeding pairs. It is highly likely there are more pairs than this in area, however thick gorse and supplejack makes finding them tricky sometimes!

As we are seeing in our monitored colonies in the Buller, breeding has been later than normal this year, with the majority of adults still sitting on eggs during the late October visit; in previous surveys at the same time of year, the majority of eggs have hatched, with some chicks fledging by this time.

Numbers of breeding pairs at the Ōkārito colony

2008 2013 2015 2018 2022
Ōkārito North 18 21 13 10 17
Ōkārito South 33 34 26 14 22
Total 51 55 39 24 39

The Ōkārito colony is a healthy and safe kororā colony; a reminder of how things would have been in the past, but also a vision of something to work towards for other kororā colonies on the West Coast.

blue penguin chick in nest as seen on burrowscope - Okarito 2022
Blue penguin chick in nest as seen on burrowscope – Okarito 2022