Royal Penguins in the Tide


Interesting Factspenguin species chart

There is still much to learn about the Eudyptes schlegeli, but from what we do know, it is clear that the Royal Penguin is a very interesting and unique species. The bright yellow feathers atop of their heads captivate the attention and bring smiles to the faces of most people who lay eyes on them. This is just one of the many fascinating characteristics that this species exhibits. These bright feathers are not solely unique to Eudyptes schlegeli. Royal Penguins belong to a group of several species of penguins which share this characteristic (see classification page). This group of penguins is referred to as the crested penguin and makes up the genus Eudypyes.  Also included in this genus are the Erect-Crested Penguin  (Eudyptes sclateri), Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus), Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), as well as the Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome). Royal Penguins, along with Macaroni Penguins, are the largest species of the crested penguin genus; Eudypyes. In fact until recently, the Royal Penguin was thought to be a subspecies of the Macaroni Penguin. Royal Penguins have even been known to interbreed with Macaroni penguins (Murphy, 2012.) (see reproduction). This is happens on very rare occasions. Other species of penguins have been known to infrequently interbreed. There are two notable differences between Eudyptes schlegeli and Eudyptes chrysolophus. One is that the Royal Penguin has a white face and chin, while the Macaroni Penguin has a black face and chin. The other difference between these fairly similar species is that the Royal Penguin is known to only breed at one location, Macquarie Island. The Royal Penguin is the only species known to inhabit this island, and it is not known as to why they are the only species to inhabit this island. Macquarie Island is an island that lies in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, about halfway between New Zealand and the frigid continent of Antarctica.

Royal Penguins, like other species of penguins, are a colonial species. This means that instead of living solely in monogamous pairs, Royal Penguins exist in colonies which generally stick lantern fishtogether. There has been an interesting finding pertaining to the different colonies inhabiting this island. The diet of the penguins seems to differ from colony to colony. This is especially particular when contrasting the diet of colonies on the east coast of the island to the coloniesKrill inhabiting the west coast. Overall though, half of the Royal Penguin’s diet consists of small deep sea fish, namely lantern fish from the family Myctophidae. About a quarter of the diet consists of krill and other crustaceans from the family Euphausiidae. The other quarter consists of namely squid and other various crustaceans (Royal penguins. 2010, August 12).


 The largest colony of Royal Penguins is routinely found at Hurd Point during breeding season. Hurd Point is located at the southern point of Macquarie Island (see habitat page). This colony is estimated to be made up of around 1 million Royal Penguins, which is about half of the estimated global population of roughly 1,600,000 individuals (Ellenbroek, B. 2013.)

 The discovery of this species dates back to the 1800’s and is credited to the famous zoologist Hermann Schlegel, which is how the Royal Penguin acquired the scientific name Eudyptes schlegeli. The Royal Penguin, like many other species of penguins, is a monogamous species. Before mating, male Royal Penguins perform a vertical head swinging motion, as well as a mating call (Waas et al. 2000).

Eudyptes schlegeli is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which means that the species is in danger of becoming threatened, which is the stage before endangerment and extinction (Royal Penguins, Eudyptes schlegeli , They are listed as a vulnerable species largely because the population had been seriously affected by human overhunting in the past. Historically, humans hunted the Royal Penguins in order to harvest the oil that coats their feathers. Today we have found other means of obtaining similar oils, so the Royal Penguins are no longer hunted. Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Services have implemented regulations and restrictions which, in turn will only benefit the Royal Penguin’s population and habitat (Koehn, A. 2001.)

Seal preying on Royal Penguin

Since humans no longer hunt Eudyptes schlegeli, their main predator consists of large seals. Leopard Seals (Hydrurga leptonyx)  in particular regularly hunt these penguins. The Leopard Seals hunt the penguins by biting the webbed feet and thrashing and pounding them against the surface of the water. Other predatory animals that prey on the Royal Penguin include orcas and sea birds such as skuas, gulls and petrels (Ellenbroek, B. 2013.)

Orcas and penguin


Next Page:  References

Return Home