10 Incredible Rockhopper Penguin Facts

Written by Janet F. Murray
Published: September 16, 2022
© William Warby / Flickr / Original
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Rockhopper penguins are native to New Zealand, Chile, South Georgia, the Falklands Islands, and the Antarctica Islands. Penguins are adorable flightless birds and there is far more to them than meets the eye. For instance, did you know that there are 18 different species of penguin? Or that a giant penguin can weigh up to 100 pounds? If you are keen on some astonishing penguin facts to share with your friends, look no further than this list of 10 incredible rockhopper penguin facts.

1. Rockhopper Penguins are the Smallest Species

Rockhopper penguins are among the smallest of all penguin species. They typically only grow to about 2 feet tall. They are also extremely light in weight, and weigh only between 5.5 and 6.5 pounds. 

2. Rockhopper Penguins are a Noisy, Feisty Bunch

The northern rockhopper penguin is a small, hardy bird known for its scrappy personality. These penguins will fight each other over the best nesting spots, mates, and food. These penguins can also be very vocal, often making loud calls to ward off predators or unwelcome visitors. They use a specific call to inform their family unit of their location. Although they may seem aggressive, the truth is that they are just trying to survive in a challenging environment. However, rockhopper penguins have a sweeter side to their personalities, demonstrated by gentle preening and the demure bowing of their heads.

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3. Rockhopper Penguins have Distinctive Coloring and Feathers

A close-up of a Rockhopper Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo, UK.
Rockhopper penguin facts include being born with black beaks that change to red and having fascinating red irises.

©William Warby / Flickr

The rockhopper penguin is a small but mighty creature. These tiny penguins are easily recognizable by their yellow tufts of feathers, which look like big extended eyebrows. Underneath those tufts is a black and yellow feather pattern unique to each penguin. Rockhopper penguins have bright red beaks. Interestingly, they are born with black beaks, and through the maturing process, their beaks change color. These fascinating animals are known for their unique red irises, contrasted with black eyelids and cheeks.

4. Rockhopper Penguins Live in Cold Climates

Rockhopper penguins are native to the colder parts of the world, such as New Zealand, Chile, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and the Antarctica Islands. They are the most widely distributed penguin species. Their populations have recently declined due to climate change and predator threats. But thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, rockhopper penguins are starting to make a comeback.

5. They Have Salt Glands above their Eyes

Close up of a Rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) standing in a group of penguins and Imperial Cormorants on a coastal area of Falkland Islands.
Rockhopper penguins have salt glands above their eyes

©Giedriius/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that penguins have a built-in mechanism for dealing with salt? It’s true! These sea-dwelling birds consume much salt daily from the ocean water they swim in and the fish they eat. However, too much salt can cause damage to cells, dehydrate them, and cause them to die. To prevent this, penguins have glands located just above their eyes.

These glands produce a secretion that helps remove excess salt from the body by moving it towards the nostrils. Once the salt reaches the nostrils, it eventually comes out – often accompanied by a sneeze! It’s amazing how nature has a way of taking care of itself – even for something as simple as excess salt intake.

6. Rockhopper Penguins have a Varied Diet

Penguins are some of the most beloved birds in the world. They are whimsical, funny, and generally quite adorable. But what many people don’t realize is that penguins are pretty ground-breaking when it comes to their diet. These birds enjoy a variety of culinary delights. They eat krill, fish, squid, crustaceans, and everything in between.

Sadly, rockhopper penguins tend to eat anything in or washed up from the ocean that appears like food – including plastic. When these lovely birds stumble upon a piece of plastic and eat it their chances of survival are low, so we must keep our oceans clean.

Practices like oil spills, egg harvesting, and commercial fishing have unfortunately classified these penguins as vulnerable. But there is still hope for these amazing creatures. With the help of conservation efforts and greater public awareness, we can give penguins the chance they deserve to thrive for generations to come.

7. Rockhoppers Mate for Life and Lay Two Eggs at a Time

Rockhopper penguin chick enjoying the sun
Facts about the rockhopper penguin include them mating for life and laying two eggs at a time, which hatch after about 38 days. Chicks often stay with their parents for two years.

©ValerieVSBN/Shutterstock.com

Rockhopper penguins must believe in soul mates because they mate for life. They are completely loyal and committed until one of them dies. Both male and female rockhopper penguins take part in incubating their eggs and raising their chicks. The female lays two eggs simultaneously, which she then balances on her feet while maintaining their temperature with her body. 

8. The Chicks Hatch after around 38 Days

Rockhopper penguin chicks hatch after about 38 days and can fend for themselves after 70 days. However, they will often stay with their parents until they reach maturity at around two years. Then they will fledge (leave the nest to disperse to breeding colonies of their own). 

9. Rockhopper Penguins have a Few Predators

Rockhopper penguins have a few types of predators in the wild, including leopard seals, orcas, and skuas. However, due to living in remote locations, few of these predators really threaten this penguin. When they do become a threat, rockhopper penguins have many natural defenses, including their sharp beaks, quick reflexes, and tight-knit social bonds. Beyond live predators, climate change threatens these birds as it melts the ice floes where they live and hunt. Oil spills also pose a threat to rockhoppers as they can contaminate the water where these birds feed. 

10. These Birds have a Fairly Long Lifespan

Rockhopper penguins are relatively long-living animals. In captivity, they can live for up to 30 years. Still, their lifespans are typically shorter in the wild due to predation and environmental hazards.

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The Featured Image

A close-up of a Rockhopper Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo, UK.
A close-up of a Rockhopper Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo, UK.
© William Warby / Flickr / Original

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with more than eight years of content creation experience. My content writing covers diverse genres, and I have a business degree. I am also the proud author of my memoir, My Sub-Lyme Life. This work details the effects of living with undiagnosed infections like rickettsia (like Lyme). By sharing this story, I wish to give others hope and courage in overcoming their life challenges. In my downtime, I value spending time with friends and family.

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