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ROCKHOPPER PENGUINS } Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome, Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome, Eudyptes moseleyi

RANGE: The southern rockhopper subspecies breeds on the Falkland Islands and in southern Chile and southern Argentina; the eastern rockhopper penguin breeds on islands in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand; and the northern rockhopper penguin breeds on Gough Island and Tristan da Cunha in the southern Atlantic Ocean and the St. Paul Islands in the southern Indian Ocean.

STATUS: Not listed under the Endangered Species Act; the southern rockhopper penguin is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

THREATS: Reduced prey abundance caused by global warming, as well as overfishing and oil pollution

Rockhopper penguins would stand out in any crowd with their spiky black head feathers and shocking, bright-yellow eyebrows ending in long, yellow plumes. Even more shocking than their feathery trimmings? Although the world population of all rockhoppers is now thought to be about 1.5 million pairs, that population has decreased by several million pairs since the early 20th century, and it’s estimated to have dwindled by 30 percent in just 30 years. Thanks mostly to global warming, which reduces rockhoppers’ food abundance, this penguin’s future wouldn’t look any better than its recent past if it weren’t for a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, which have compelled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider rockhoppers and nine other imperiled penguin species for protection under the Endangered Species Act.


Photo by Gerald and Buff Corsi (c) California Academy of Sciences