New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2019) 43(2): 3366

Variability of little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) diving behaviour across New Zealand

Research Article
B. Louise Chilvers 1
  1. Wildbase, School of Veterinary Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand

Foraging strategies of penguin species can vary according to the quality of the marine environment, and this influences their abundance and breeding success. Little blue penguins (Eudyptula minor) are considered a candidate species for assessing near-shore marine productivity due to their usually limited foraging ranges and reliance on local resources, particularly while rearing chicks. Understanding the variability of little blue penguins diving behaviours will inform whether the species can be used as an environmental monitor. This research investigates diving behaviours and feather stable isotope values (as indicators of diet) of little blue penguins from Motuara Island, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand, and compares them with little blue penguins from three other locations distributed across the country. The diving behaviour of little blue penguins, including dive depth and duration, were highly variable indicating that little blue penguins are an environmentally adaptable species. Because of the highly variable marine environments they inhabit, the use of little blue penguins as local monitors of New Zealand’s changing marine environment requires an understanding of area and population specific diving and foraging behaviour.