Act! Support Our Efforts
Ocean Conservation Marine Life Species Database Education+Careers Projects Contributors Photos Videos News Connect

Erect-crested Penguins, Eudyptes sclateri

Erect-crested PenguinsErect-crested PenguinsErect-crested PenguinsContribute Photos or VideoContribute Photos or Video

Description & Behavior

Erect-crested penguins, Eudyptes sclateri (Buller, 1888), aka big-crested penguins, are the largest of the 6 species of crested penguins standing about 50 cm tall and weighing up to 4 kg. Their characteristic brush-like crests distinguish them from other species, however they are easily confused with their cousins the Fiordland and Snares crested penguins. Males are generally larger than the females. Adults have black heads and throats with a wide yellow stripe on their face that extends above their eye forming the erect crest. This species sports the classic tuxedo with a black back and white belly. The dorsal (upper) side of their flippers are black with white edges and white with a black patch at the tip underneath. Erect-crested penguins have long, slender beaks that are dark orange in color. Juveniles are distinguished from adults by their slight difference in color and shorter crests.

Erect-crested penguins are a very social species with many displays and vocalizations. Like other penguin species, mating pairs recognize each other both by sight and the distinct vocalizations of individual birds whose harsh, low-pitched calls are heard mainly during the day. Aggressive displays are characterized by the use of the crest and by a lowered head, combined with a growling or barking. Fighting behavior includes twisting of bills, biting and flipper beating.

World Range & Habitat

Erect-crested penguins, Eudyptes sclateri, are only found in the New Zealand subantarctic region, primarily on the Antipodes and Bounty Islands, with smaller populations found around the Auckland and Campbell Islands. Juveniles are sometimes found molting on the New Zealand mainland.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Erect-crested penguins, Eudyptes sclateri, are thought to feed on small fish and krill near the surface and may travel hundreds of kilometers at a time to hunt for prey.

Life History

Erect-crested penguins, Eudyptes sclateri, breed in large colonies on rocky coasts, often high up steep inclines where nests are formed on rock platforms. This species often breeds near rockhopper penguin colonies. Courtship displays include an enthusiastic greeting with an open bill, vertical head swinging, trumpeting, quivering, bowing and preening. Males return to the breeding colonies in September competing and fighting for nest sites. The females join the males 2 weeks later and work together to form nests made of mud, stones and grass. Females lay 2 eggs, the first of which is lost 98% of the time, leaving the larger second egg to be incubated. Incubation lasts for about 35 days, and the chicks are fed regurgitated food by the females until they fledge in February. Adults return to sea after molting in March.

Conservation Status & Comments

Erect-crested penguins are thought to be declining in number at an estimated rate of at least 50% over the last 5 decades. Because of their limited breeding range, they are threatened by human disturbance and competition.

Erect-crested penguins, Eudyptes sclateri, are listed as Endangered (EN A2b; B2ab(i,ii,iv,v)) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

A taxon is Endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Endangered (see Section V), and it is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

References & Further Research

Center for Biological Diversity: Penguins
Erect-crested Penguin, Eudyptes sclateri - International Penguin Conservation Working Group
New Zealand Penguins, by Dave Houston

Research Eudyptes sclateri » Barcode of Life ~ Taxonomy ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species + Database ~ WoRMS

Search for Erect-crested Penguins » ARKive ~ Flickr ~ Google ~ Creative Commons search ~ Wikipedia ~ YouTube

Feedback & Citation

Start or join a discussion about this species below or send us an email to report any errors or submit suggestions for this page. We greatly appreciate all feedback!

~^~ surface

Help Protect and Restore Ocean Life

Help us protect and restore marine life by supporting our various online community-centered marine conservation projects that are effectively sharing the wonders of the ocean with millions each year around the world, raising a balanced awareness of the increasingly troubling and often very complex marine conservation issues that affect marine life and ourselves directly, providing support to marine conservation groups on the frontlines that are making real differences today, and the scientists, teachers and students involved in the marine life sciences.

Show your support with a monthly donation today.

With your support, most marine life and their ocean habitats can be protected, if not restored to their former natural levels of biodiversity. We sincerely thank our thousands of members, donors and sponsors, who have decided to get involved and support the MarineBio Conservation Society.