Comparison of population numbers of yellow-eyed penguins, Megadyptes antipodes, on Stewart Island and on adjacent cat-free islands
- Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
- Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, P.O. Box 5409, Dunedin, New Zealand
During a comprehensive survey in 1999, 2000 and 2001, we investigated the number of breeding yellow-eyed penguin pairs on Stewart Island, where cats are present, and on adjacent cat-free islands. We found 79 pairs of yellow-eyed penguin breeding in 19 discrete locations on Stewart Island (4.2 pairs per location), and 99 pairs breeding in 10 discrete locations on all cat-free islands (9.9 pairs per location). Large-scale humaninduced habitat modifications have not occurred on Stewart Island, nor on any of its adjacent offshore islands. While the extensive coastline of Stewart Island (673 km) offers potentially large areas of breeding habitat for penguins, the highest number of breeding pairs were found on the smaller, predator-free Codfish Island (25 km coastline), where a total of 61 breeding pairs were recorded. On Stewart Island, where mustelids do not occur, only feral cats can pose a serious threat to penguin offspring. Results from this study suggest that feral cats may prey on yellow-eyed penguins on Stewart Island. Further work is necessary to investigate whether the observed low numbers of yellow-eyed penguins on Stewart Island are caused by feral cat predation. If so, it may be possible to develop appropriate measures to protect this penguin species from a population decline.