Little Penguin Penguins on Stamps

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The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin. The penguin, which usually grows to an average of 33 cm in height and 43 cm in length (though specific measurements vary by subspecies),is found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand, with possible records from Chile.

Apart from Little Penguins, they have several common names. In Australia, they are also referred to as Fairy Penguins because of their tiny size. In New Zealand, they are also called Little Blue Penguins, or just Blue Penguins, owing to their slate-blue plumage, and they are called Kororā in Māori.

The Little Penguin was first described by German naturalist, Johann Reinhold Forster in 1781. There are several subspecies but a precise classification of these is still a matter of dispute. The holotypes of the subspecies Eudyptula minor variabilis and Eudyptula minor chathamensis are in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The White-flippered Penguin is sometimes considered a subspecies, sometimes a distinct species, and sometimes a morph. As the Australian and Otago (eastern South Island) Little Penguins seem to be a distinct species to which the specific name minor would apply, the White-flippered birds indeed belong to a distinct species, although not exactly as originally assumed.

Like all penguins, the little penguin's wings have developed into flippers used for swimming. The Little Penguin typically grows to between 30 and 33 cm tall and usually weighs about 1.5 kilogram on average. The head and upperparts are blue in colour, with slate-grey ear coverts fading to white underneath, from the chin to the belly. The flippers are blue. The dark grey-black beak is 3–4 cm long, the irises pale silvery- or bluish-grey or hazel, and the feet pink above with black soles and webbing. An immature individual will have a shorter bill and lighter upperparts.

Like most seabirds, they have a long lifespan. The average for the species is 6.5 years, but flipper ringing experiments show in very exceptional cases up to 25 years in captivity.

The Little Penguin breeds along the entire coastline of New Zealand, the Chatham Islands, and southern Australia (including roughly 20,000 pairs on Babel Island).

Little penguins have also been reported from Chile (where they are known as Pingüino pequeño or Pingüino azul) and South Africa, but it is unclear whether these birds were vagrants.

Rough estimates (as new colonies continue to be discovered) of the world population are around 350,000-600,000 animals. The species is not considered endangered, except for the White-Flippered subspecies found only on Banks Peninsula and nearby Motunau Island in New Zealand. Since the 1960s, the mainland population has declined by 60-70%; though there has been a small increase on Motunau Island. But overall Little Penguin populations have been decreasing as well, with some colonies having been wiped out and other populations continuing to be at risk. However, new colonies have been established in urban areas.

(Source of text: Wikipedia)

 

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