Colony confident of penguin survival despite rain event

Oamaru’s little penguins have survived in relatively high numbers despite stormy weather late...
Oamaru’s little penguins have survived in relatively high numbers despite stormy weather late last year that had the potential to knock back penguin numbers. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
After heavy rain hit Oamaru in November little penguins abandoned their nests, but fears of a repeat of the "disastrous" 2015 season have not materialised.

In 2015, after a major winter storm, only 60% of Oamaru's adult little penguins survived.

And after the Oamaru area experienced a record 217mm of rain in November, the resultant murky water created difficult foraging conditions through much of December; and Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony science and environmental manager Dr Philippa Agnew said adult survival rates were a "major concern".

However, this week she was "pretty confident" adult survival rates of birds at the Cape Wanbrow quarry colony would remain above 80%, near the long-term average of 85%.

The breeding season suffered when penguins abandoned eggs and chicks, but even though the chicks died, the adults appear to have survived.

"It's not going to be the disastrous year that that year was," she said.

"When I look through the monitoring books, with all of the data, a lot of the birds that were breeding have come in to moult. So it seems that by them abandoning their nesting, it's worked in their favour."

At the start of this month, over 200 adults were "home" at the tourism colony at Oamaru Harbour and about 100 were coming ashore each night for the evening viewing.

And the breeding season - while not the record-setting season that was hoped for - was not "really that bad".

With two chicks remaining at the colony, after the breeding season began about eight months ago in August, the colony's 189 breeding pairs produced 287 chicks this year.

Last year, 189 breeding pairs produced 370 chicks.

The rough average of 1.5 chicks produced per breeding pair was only slightly down on the long-term average of 1.86 chicks per pair.

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