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5 Tips for Watching New Zealand Penguins

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Watching penguins in New Zealand.

Penguins are some of the most exciting wildlife to observe in New Zealand. There are around six different species of penguins in New Zealand, with the most common being the little blue penguin and one of the rarest being the Fiordland crested penguin. Penguins are known to be seen all over New Zealand, but mostly on the South Island. It’s important to know what to do if you see a penguin, not only to experience the joys of observing their natural behaviour but in order to not disturb these threatened creatures. Follow our tips on what you can do to help keep New Zealand penguins safe.

For more information, see Where to Find Penguins in New Zealand and 8 Best Places to See Penguins in New Zealand.

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1. Observe from a distance

Penguins in New Zealand are extremely timid on land and are easily disturbed, which can lead to penguins abandoning their chicks. The best way to watch penguins, if you are lucky enough to spot some, is to observe them from a distance. It’s best to hide so that they can’t see you, keep quiet and keep still. If you have to move, move slowly.

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2. Don’t look for burrows

Many of New Zealand’s penguins nest in coastal vegetation, so don’t rummage around these areas in case you disturb a nest. Never approach birds in their nests. Again, this can lead to the chicks being abandoned.

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3. Slow down when driving in penguin areas

On the coastal roads around the South Island, particularly around Dunedin, Akaroa, Oamaru and the West Coast, it’s common to see penguins crossing the roads at night on their way to nesting sites. These areas are usually signposted with a penguin road sign, so slow down in these areas and let the penguins cross the road.

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4. Don’t approach a “scruffy” looking penguin

Between November and March, penguins shed their feathers and grow new feathers each year. Penguins look a little “scruffy” at this time of the year, with many people mistaking moulting penguins for being sick. Leave moulting penguins alone, especially as it is the most stressful time of the year for penguins.

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5. Keep dogs away from penguin habitats

For those of you travelling with dogs, make sure you keep your dog on a leash near penguin nesting areas. On most beaches in the South Island, it’s best to keep your dog in control at all times. Keep your dog away from dunes or coastal vegetation especially, as dogs are known to kill penguins.

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