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The Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus), also known as the Snares Crested Penguin and the Snares Islands Penguin, is a penguin from New Zealand. The species breeds on The Snares, a group of islands off the southern coast of the South Island. This is a medium-small, yellow-crested penguin, at a size of 50-70 cm and a weight of 2.5–4 kg. It has dark blue-black upperparts and white underparts. It has a bright yellow eyebrow-stripe which extends over the eye to form a drooping, bushy crest. It has bare pink skin at the base of its large red-brown bill.

This penguin nests in small (10 nests) to large (1200 nests) colonies under forest cover or the open. Main colonies are located on North East Island, other colonies are established on Broughton Island as well as the rocky Western Chain. The Snares Penguin's main prey is krill, supplemented by squid and small fish. The species is currently rated as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN as its breeding range is restricted to one small island group. The current population is estimated at around 25,000 breeding pairs.

The Snares Penguin is often compared to the Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes Pachyrhynchus), which is related by the genus of Crested Penguins (Eudyptes). Snares Penguins can be distinguished from Fiordland Penguins by a patch of skin at the base of their beaks. The Snares Penguin is similarly colored to other species of penguins, having a black head, back and flippers with a white belly. A bright-yellow crest, beginning at the base of the bill, runs along the upper part of the head on both sides and ends at the back of the head. It has a thick reddish-brown beak, traced with light pink skin at the base. The eyes are generally described as a bright red-brown color, but this coloration can vary somewhat between individuals and in different lighting. The color patterns under the wings differ from individual to individual, so it is not a good characteristic for species identification.

The penguin can make a large variety of vocal noises. It is difficult to verbally describe these noises, but they range from hisses and explosive cries when threatened to rhythmical braying and trumpeting sounds that can be heard from long distances at sea.

The Snares Penguin is named after the place in which it breeds—the Snares Islands. The Snares Islands are a small group of islands off the coast of southern New Zealand. Although little is known of their range and migration outside of the breeding season, it is not thought that they migrate far in the winters. Occasional sitings have occurred on the coasts of Tasmania, southern Australia, the Chatham Islands, Stewart Island, and the southern New Zealand mainland. There are approximately 25,000 living pairs of Snares Penguins.

Snares Penguins nest in dense colonies under the tree cover of the Olearia forests or on coastal rocks. To build a nest, the penguins dig up shallow holes in the ground and layer the bottom with grass, leaves, twigs, peat, or pebbles. A small rim of mud is added to the rim of the nest to raise it above ground level. Vegetation at nesting sites dies dues to the dense nesting activities, and the colony moves to a new nesting site. Colonies nesting near streams may have some advantage, as the stream provides water for drinking and bathing. However, it is not essential that nesting colonies are located near a stream since many are far from any stream.

Although Snares Penguins are not currently threatened, they are considered a vulnerable species. If a threat arose, it could quickly wipe out their population because their breeding grounds are confined to a small island group. Possible threats include the introduction of a new predator, overfishing around the islands that would deplete their food source, increasing water temperatures from global warming driving prey away, and pollution.The New Zealand government has taken action to protect the Snares Islands habitats and marine feeding grounds.

(Source of text: Wikipedia)

 

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