Rockhopper Penguins on Stamps

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The Southern Rockhopper Penguin group (Eudyptes chrysocome), are two subspecies of rockhopper penguin, that together are sometimes considered distinct from the Northern Rockhopper Penguin. It occurs in subantarctic waters of the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as around the southern coasts of South America.

The subspecies recognized for the Southern Rockhopper Penguin complex are:

            • Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome, the Western Rockhopper Penguin or American Southern Rockhopper Penguin - breeds around the southern tip of South America

            • Eudyptes chrysocome filholi, the Eastern Rockhopper Penguin or Indopacific Southern Rockhopper Penguin - breeds on subantarctic islands of the Indian and western Pacific oceans.

The Northern Rockhopper Penguin lives in a different water mass than the Western and Eastern Rockhopper Penguins, separated by the Subtropical Front, and they are genetically different. Therefore, northern birds are sometimes separated as E. moseleyi. The Rockhopper penguins are closely related to the Macaroni Penguin (E. chrysolophus) and the Royal Penguin (E. schlegeli), which may just be a colour morph of the Macaroni Penguin

The Southern Rockhopper Penguin group has a global population of roughly 1 million pairs. About two-thirds of the global population belongs to E. c. chrysocome which breeds on the Falkland Islands and on islands off Argentina and southern Chile. These include most significantly Isla de los Estados, the Ildefonso Islands, the Diego Ramírez Islands and Isla Noir. E. c. filholi breeds on the Prince Edward Islands, the Crozet Islands, the Kerguelen Islands, Heard Island, Macquarie Island, Campbell Island, the Auckland Islands and the Antipodes Islands. Outside the breeding season, the birds can be found roaming the waters offshore their colonies.

A study published in 2009 showed that the world population of the Northern Rockhopper had declined by 90% since the 1950s. The current population is estimated to be between 100,000-499,999 breeding pairs at Gough Island, 18,000 to 27,000 pairs at Inaccessible Island, and 3,200 to 4,500 at Tristan da Cunha. In the Indian Ocean, the population was 25,500 pairs on Amsterdam Island, and 9,000 pairs on St Paul Island in 1993; there has been no information available on population trends there since the 1990s. Declines at the Atlantic Ocean sites show a decline of 2.7 per cent per year; the drop in the population at Gough Island has been described as equivalent to the loss of 100 birds every day since the 1950s

These penguins feed on krill, squid, octopus, lantern fish, mollusks, plankton, cuttlefish, and mainly crustaceans.

The Rockhopper Penguin group is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. Its population has declined by about one-third in the last thirty years. The Northern Rockhopper Penguin is classified as Endangered

(Source of text: Wikipedia)

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