Rockhopper Penguins

Falkland Islands 2012
Rockhopper penguins are distinguished by the irreverent crest of spiky yellow and black feathers that adorns their head.

Rockhoppers are found bounding—rather than waddling, as most other penguins do—among the craggy, windswept
shorelines of the Falkland Islands.

These penguins are among the world's smallest penguins, standing about 20 inches tall. They have blood-red eyes, a red-
orange beak, and pink webbed feet.

During annual breeding times, rockhoppers gather in vast, noisy colonies, often numbering in the hundreds of thousands.,
They return to the same breeding ground, and often to the same nest, each year, and usually seek out their previous year's
mate.

Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, aggressively pecking at anything, big or small, that may stray too close.

These penguins are among the most numerous on the planet, but their population is in rapid decline. Colonies on the Falkland
Islands were once the largest anywhere, but commercial overfishing, pollution, and other factors have cut the penguins'
numbers by 90 percent. Breeding colonies on other islands are in trouble as well, and some estimates say rockhopper
penguins have declined by more than 30 percent over the past 30 years.

If declines continue, they are likely to be uplisted to endangered in the near future.

Below, a Rockhopper rookery on Saunders Island.
A second rookery at the "neck" on Saunders Island.
A couple curious Rockhopper penguins approached to within inches of my camera after washing in the tide pool in the
background.
Rockhoppers are very social coming and going in groups of up to one or two hundred and gathering in the rookery. But, there
is also friction in the community such as between these two Rockhoppers who both wanted exclusive use of the "Rockhopper
Shower" on Saunders, a small water fall coming over a rock.
Rockhoppers come and go in incredible surf.
Rockhoppers are playful and love to bathe in tide pools.
Wonder why they are called Rockhoppers?
Unlike our previous visits to the Falkland Islands, this time there were chicks in the rookeries waiting for their parents to return
for feeding.
The best time of day to observe the Rockhoppers returning to the rookeries was in the evenings. At that time of day we could
watch them emerge one or two hundred at a time.
Sometimes Rockhoppers can get quite noisy, and we were left to wonder what triggered all this fuss.