Little Penguin

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The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin. The penguin, which is about 43 cm (16 in) tall, 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.

Contents

Taxonomy

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[2] and Eudyptula minor chathamensis[3] 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 western South Island Little Penguins seem to be a distinct species[4] to which the specific name minor would apply, the White-flippered birds indeed belong to a distinct species, although not exactly as originally assumed.

Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests the split between Eudyptula and Spheniscus occurred around 25 million years ago, with the ancestors of the White-flippered and Little Penguins diverging about 2.7 million years ago.[5]

Description

The Little Penguin typically grows to 43 cm (17 in) tall and weigh 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). The male little penguin is a little larger than the female, although their plumage is similar. The head and upperparts are indigo in colour, with slate-grey ear coverts fading to white underneath, from the chin to the belly. The flippers are indigo above and white underneath. The dark grey-black bill is 3–4 cm long, the irises pale silvery- or bluish-grey or hazel, and the feet whitish above with black soles and webbing. An immature individual will have a shorter bill and paler upperparts.[6]

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