Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Predator in a Penguin Suit

Little penguins

The aim of the study was to find out if group or solitary hunting strategies were influenced by prey type, and how this affected how much prey an individual caught and how many calories an individual gained.

By Grace Sutton

Miniature video cameras and GPS have given an underwater bird’s-eye view of the hunting behaviours of the world’s smallest penguin.

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When we think of little penguins, most of us imagine cute birds waddling up the beach in their tuxedos. What we overlook is that penguins are skilled and tactical hunters in the ocean, foraging sometimes for days at sea to provide food for their offspring.

Penguins are perfectly adapted for life in an aquatic environment. Spending most of their time at sea, their compact torpedo-like bodies and strong flippers allow them to travel effortlessly through the water column in a movement that has often been described as “underwater flying”. However, these physical adaptations are not enough on their own, so these animals must make decisions and develop behavioural strategies to enable them to successfully find and catch prey at sea.

Little penguins are the smallest of all the penguin species. With a height of approximately 30 cm and weighing in at about 1.2 kg, these feisty little birds are residents of the southern coastline of Australia and New Zealand.

During the breeding season, little penguins are restricted in how far they can travel, so they must hunt at sea close to the colony in order to return most days to feed their chicks. As a result of this limitation, these small, flightless birds develop hunting strategies so that they can successfully find food during each foraging trip.

Recently it was discovered that little penguins, like many...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.