A Little Blue Penguin encounter

See Little Blue Penguins up close at the International Antarctic Centre.

The smallest of the all the penguin species, the Little Blue (korora) Penguin weighs between 1 and 1.5kg, and is around 35cm in height. They can be found at many places along the coast line of Southern Australia, The Chatham Islands and New Zealand, and are a protected species.

Little Blues have a distinguishable slate blue plumage; a white chin, throat and chest and blue grey flippers. Contrary to popular belief, penguins are covered in thousands of feathers, not fur, and they moult annually at the end of summer to make way for a new winter coat.

While the Little Blues in their native habitat spend most of their time at sea, reaching distances of 70km from the colony and travelling at a speed of up to 6km per hour through the water, they only come to shore in the evening and are rarely seen on land. If they are spotted on land, then it is usually at dusk and at quite a distance.

However, if you want to see these wonderful birds up close, the International Antarctic Centre offers the opportunity to see them swimming, nesting, feeding and playing in their own spectacular Banks Peninsula-themed environment. This can be accessed on two levels and is New Zealand’s first combined indoor/outdoor viewing exhibit.

Each penguin or penguin couple in the exhibit has a nest box which they call home.  This is heated in winter and kept cool in the summer.

The attraction can care for up to 26 Little Blue Penguins, all of which will remain in captivity. They’re there because they have either sustained permanent injuries or have conditions which mean they can no longer survive in the wild.

Their lifespan in the wild is 6.5 years on average, but a few of the penguins here are now into their second decade. This is due to the lack of predators (including man), plenty of great food and year round medical care.

The attraction has two daily feeding shows, where the birds are on their best and cutest behaviour and the keepers give informative talks about the birds, their life at the centre and the truly individual and humorous personalities they have!

For a completely unique experience, you can also book a  backstage tour, which takes you behind the scenes at the penguin encounter where you can learn more about what is involved in the day to day care of the birds, what they’re fed, and take an extra close up look at the penguins.

You could sit for hours watching them zoom past you through the water!