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Best place to view penguins in the South Island
The Fiordland crested penguin, or tawaki, is one of the rarest of New Zealand’s mainland penguins.
Breeding season is between July and November and although they are dotted along the remote West Coast of Fiordland, there are very few opportunities to view them due to the remoteness of the coast.
Viewing the Fiordland crested penguin colony
A local helicopter company and guided hikes company have joined together to fly people for half a day to the coast to view the penguins in their natural habitat, take in a short walk along the famous Hollyford Track and head back to Queenstown over the spectacular Southern Alps just in time for a beer by the lake or the Apres Ski that Queenstown is famous for.
About the Fiordland Crested Penguin
Penguins normally nest close to caves, under overhanging rocks or in dense vegetation and the beach at the end of the Hollyford Track is a perfect location for a number of breeding pairs of Fiordland Crested penguins or Tawaki as they are also known as.
They often mate for life, although outside breeding season they do separate but return each year to the same spot in search for their mate from the previous year
While nesting their diet consists of juvenile squid, octopus, krill and small fish.
The penguins reach maturity for breeding at about five or six years which is when the females lay two white eggs around the end of August. This first egg is generally not as large as the second, and both are incubated for 30–35 days. As the penguins can not raise more than one chick, the 1st eggs tend not to hatch or if they do, the chicks die of starvation within ten days of hatching. This is thought to be because the first egg is probably an insurance policy in case the second egg does not survive.
Chicks are at first cared for and fed by the male penguin, who goes without food for the first 3 weeks. The chicks then form creches and are fed by both parents until they become independent and leave the colony in late November or early December.