Great Hopper, Great Swimmer
Rockhopper penguins get their name because they hop over rocks and crevices on the shores where they live. They are found among the craggy, windswept shorelines of the islands north of Antarctica; from Chile to New Zealand. They are part of a family of penguins called the crested penguins because of the brightly colored feathers on their heads. These bright feathers look like long eyebrows. They have blood-red eyes, a red-orange beak, and pink webbed feet. These penguins have shiny, waterproof feathers that help keep their skin dry. Each year, they molt, losing their old feathers and growing new ones. During annual breeding times, rockhoppers gather in vast, noisy colonies, often numbering in the hundreds of thousands, to construct burrows in the tall tussock grasses near shore. They return to the same breeding grounds and even the same nest, year after year. Rockhoppers cannot fly. But when they swim, they look like they are flying underwater!
Rockhoppers are between 18 and 23 inches tall- around as high as an average adult human’s knee, and weigh between 5 to 8 lbs or as much as a newborn baby. They are the smallest of the crested penguins. They eat squid, krill and other small fish. They hunt in the frigid waters of their range. They usually stick to the shallows, but are capable of diving up to 330 feet. Commercial overfishing, pollution, and changes in sea temperature are threatening Rockhopper Penguin populations.