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NIWA Kororā Colony interpretation panels were designed by Urban Wildlife Trust to help with information on protecting the world’s smallest penguin in our urban environment.

About Kororā 

Kororā or Little penguins are the world’s smallest penguin, standing at only 35-43 cm and weigh in at just over 1kg. The penguins hunt at sea, diving for prey generally in waters less than 50 m deep. Their diet is composed of varying proportions of small shoaling fish, squid and crustacean species. Little penguins have been recorded foraging as far as 214km away from the colony during incubation on Motuara Island, Marlborough, reaching speeds of 6kph. Alas as sea temperatures have risen so have the sightings of starving or emaciated penguins this is due to kororā having to go further and deeper for the small fish they require for themselves and chicks.

Little penguins are widely distributed along the coastlines of the North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands and their offshore islands. They visit (but are not known to breed at) the Three Kings Islands, and are vagrant to the Snares Islands. Little penguins are also common in south-western and south-eastern Australia, where they are also known as fairy penguin. Little penguins are mainly found within 25 km of the shore during the breeding season but can travel further out to sea when not breeding. Major breeding areas in New Zealand include Hauraki Gulf islands, Wellington Harbour, Cook Strait islands and Marlborough Sounds, West Coast, Fiordland, Motunau Island, Banks Peninsula, Oamaru, Otago Peninsula, islands in Foveaux Strait and around Stewart Island, and the Chatham Islands.

Kororā Interpretation Panels around NIWA colonies

October 2023 saw the installation of 7 interpretation panels installed around the Southern end Kororā Colony and soon to be another 7 panels around the new Northern end Kororā Colony at NIWA | Climate, Freshwater & Marine Science, Evans Bay Parade in Wellington City. The panels were designed to not only provide information about our kororā but also provide a reminder to always keep dogs on leash while walking in these locations and to remove all recreational fishing gear after you have finished fishing in these locations or anywhere around the Wellington Coastline where kororā inhabit.

A year in the of Little Penguins

Little penguins can often breed as isolated pairs or in colonies. They will mate for life, although things don’t always go as planned and without access to counselling little penguins can end up in a messy divorce, just like us humans. If a nesting location has been successful in the past they will return to the same nesting site year after year. Nests are situated close to the sea in burrows excavated by the birds or other species, or in caves, rock crevices, under logs or in or under a variety of man-made structures including nest boxes, pipes, stacks of wood or timber, and buildings. They are monogamous within a breeding season and share incubation and chick-rearing duties. They are the only species of penguin capable of producing more than one clutch of eggs per breeding season, but few populations do so. The 1-2 white or lightly mottled brown eggs are laid from July to mid-November, and with a rarer second (or even third) clutches beginning as late as December. Incubation takes up to 36 days. Chicks are brooded for 18-38 days and fledge after 7-8 weeks.


The Secret Little Penguin

Little penguins are nocturnal on land. They return to nesting areas at dusk, congregating in small groups, or “rafts” offshore. Rafts usually come ashore together and are comprised of the same individuals each night. 

They feed at sea as solitary individuals or small groups, rarely more than 6 individuals. They must stay ashore continuously for about 2 weeks during the annual moult (mainly between January and March) when all feathers are replaced simultaneously.

The little penguins have many challenges just to stay alive!.

Habitat loss, pollution, overfishing, predators such as dogs, cats and mustelids and the increasing warming seas are all putting the little penguin under immense pressure.

Penguins are vulnerable especially while they are ashore during moult or nesting periods. Penguin deaths due to dog attacks are very common but are entirely avoidable with responsible dog ownership. Always adhere to any local signage and keep dogs on a lead, under full control when near penguin habitat.

Everyone can play a part in protecting kororā / Little Penguins

Watch the kororā live cams

24/7 live – Watch kororā / little penguins in Wellington.