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Rare, royal visit as king penguin goes walkabout in Southland

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Nov 2022, 9:44AM

Rare, royal visit as king penguin goes walkabout in Southland

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Nov 2022, 9:44AM

A king penguin, likely from a large colony on Tasmanian State Reserve Macquarie Island, has been spotted airily ambling along the beach at Fortrose Spit, in Southland.

Department of Conservation Murihiku operations manager John McCarroll said king penguins were fairly rare visitors to mainland New Zealand, but were probably annual visitors to the country’s subantarctic islands.

The birds most likely came up from the large colony on Macquarie Island.

He said it was important to keep dogs away from the bird, and also for visitors to avoid getting too close, so that it was not being constantly disturbed.

Given the penguin appeared to be healthy, it would eventually head back to sea.

There was no reason to expect more of them to show up. They were a cold-water species and typically fed at sea far south of New Zealand, he said.

The king penguin can be a metre in height and weigh up to 18kg. They look similar to their slightly larger cousins, the emperor penguin, but are distinguished by a solid bright orange cheek patch. Kings also have a longer, straighter bill, larger flippers and a noticeably sleeker body. Perfectly shaped, in fact, for a day at the beach.

- Hamish MacLean, ODT

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