Pilots Beach penguins thrive

Two little blue penguin chicks relax in their box at Pilots Beach. Photo: Supplied
Two little blue penguin chicks relax in their box at Pilots Beach. Photo: Supplied
Blue penguins are thriving at Pilots Beach in one of Dunedin's conservation success stories.

Likely with weeks still to go in their breeding season, the seabirds at the tip of the peninsula have already laid 432 eggs, up on last year's 417.

There have been 224 clutches, or nests, counted as of yesterday, compared to last year's 215.

Pukekura Trust scientist Dr Hiltrun Ratz said things were going ''really well'' in the area.

Although counting only began in 2016, this was the busiest year so far.

''Little penguins are the most productive seabird on the planet. If the year is good then they are very very productive.''

Oamaru blue penguins' feeding was compromised recently when floods in the Waitaki River pushed muddy water into the ocean, likely making it harder for the seabirds to find food.

It was understood the Taieri and Clutha rivers did not present the same problem at Pilot's Beach, she said.

''The way the currents are we believe it doesn't affect our penguins, but we can't really say for sure.''

Meteorologists were predicting an El Nino weather pattern this summer, which would also be good for the penguins as it made creatures they ate thrive.

''It manifests itself in southern New Zealand with below-average ocean temperatures. Colder water, with more oxygen in it, is good for plankton and fish.''

The increased population of penguins would be welcomed.

''It's not a carrying capacity thing. I think there's scope for many more penguins to live at Pilots Beach.''


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