Rockhopper penguins are found throughout the sub-Antarctic and in regions of the southern Indian and Pacific Oceans. The regions occupied by the rockhopper penguin depend on the species. The western rockhopper is found around the tip of the South America; the eastern rockhopper breeds on sub-Antarctic islands of the Indian and western Pacific oceans and the northern rockhopper penguin breeds on islands of Tristan da Cunha as well as on Amsterdam and St Paul Islands.
The rockhopper is a small sized species of penguin that is similar in appearance to the slightly larger royal penguin and the macaroni penguin. Rockhopper penguins have black-grey upper parts and a straight, bright yellow eyebrow ending in long yellowish plumes projecting sideways behind a red eye. Their beaks are usually orange/red in colour.
All penguins are fantastic swimmers and the rockhopper penguin is no exception. Rockhopper penguins use their powerful flippers and streamlined bodies, aided by their webbed feet to soar through the water. Their unique way of moving about on land also means that the rockhopper penguin is able to inhabit even more extreme environments than other penguin species.
The rockhopper penguin is a carnivorous animal, that like all other penguin species, survives on a diet that is only comprised of marine animals. Krill and small crustaceans make up the bulk of the rockhopper penguin's diet along with larger organisms including squid and various species of fish. Rockhopper penguins can be at sea for days at a time whilst hunting and catch their food by diving deep into the water for minutes at a time.
The rockhopper penguin has no natural land-based predators due to the fact that rockhopper penguins inhabit pretty harsh environments, uninhabitable to other animals . Large leopard seals hunt the rockhopper penguin in the water along with large sharks and killer whales. Rockhopper penguin population have also been seriously affected by human hunting, and are easily affected by changes in the water from oil spills and chemical pollutants.
Rockhopper penguins nest on beaches, high up on the cliffs and sometimes inland on islands throughout the sub-Antarctic (these sites are known as rookeries). The female rockhopper penguin lays two eggs which are incubated for just over a month and usually fledge (leave the nest) when they are between 2 and 3 months old.
Today, the rockhopper populations throughout the southern hemisphere have been drastically declining and all three species are now at risk. The northern rockhopper penguin is classified as endangered, where the others are not quite in as much danger.