Every year on April 25th the world raises a glass to the penguin, the adorable seabird whose existence is on the edge. We wouldn’t know waddle do without them. Luckily, here in the Waitaki District we have lots of opportunities to learn about and admire our tuxedoed friends. So, put on your best black tie and read on to discover what you can do for our cutest residents this World Penguin Day.
Visit the Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony
The colony, five minutes away from the township of Ōamaru, is home to the world’s smallest penguin: The little blue penguin, korora in Maori, also known as fairy penguins. They stand at just 30cm tall, and normally live around 8-10 years. The oldest penguin at the OBPC lived to 21 years old.
Every evening you can watch from the grandstand as they come ashore. Peak season (August-February) can see over 200 penguins coming back to their habitats from a hard days fishing.
When the Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony was established in 1992, the mission was clear: to protect the penguins and learn more about them. The colony achieves this by providing breeding penguins with nesting boxes that are designed to last, utilising predator control, and funding penguin monitoring and research programmes. Dr. Philippa Agnew, the on staff environmental scientist, feeds vital information into a world-wide science community, dedicated to protecting penguin species.
To support all the work the colony does for the penguins bring your whole family for a visit.
Following your wildlife encounter, why not adopt a penguin? Adopting a little one will go a long way to funding conservation and research projects, plus you’ll receive a photo, actual adoption certificate, and information pack about your penguin.
Head to Bushy Beach to see hoiho
Witness the winner of Bird of the Year for 2019, the yellow eyed penguin (hoiho in Maori) from the ice-olated viewing hides up on the cliffs. While hoiho translates as noisy, these birds are notoriously shy and will slink back into the sea if they see folks on the beach, which is why the time for a hand-in-hand stroll along Bushy Beach is any time before 3pm, when the beautiful birds return to the shore.
Volunteer at Katiki Point
You can’t access the beach at Katiki Point as it’s a significant breeding site for hoiho and other birds, but with a pair of binoculars you can watch them from afar. Alternatively, if you want to lend a helping hand to the yellow-eyed penguin you can volunteer at Penguin Rescue NZ. The lighthouse keepers house at Katiki Point has been transformed by the wildlife warriors into a private rehabilitation centre for sick and injured penguins.
Keep your eyes peeled in Ōamaru’s Victorian Precinct
In the seaside town of Ōamaru, you’re just as likely to see someone riding a penny farthing down the street as you are to see a little blue penguin cross the road. Cameras and crowds can disorient the wee birds, making it hard for them to find their way back to the safety of the colony, so watch out for the aquatic charmers, we want to keep them safe!