Royal Penguins are a migratory species. All Eudyptes schlegeli make residence on Macquarie Island during the breeding season. The island is located off the South of Australia in the Pacific. It is uncertain where they go during the non-breeding season. Sightings have ranged from Tasmania all the way to the Antarctic sector of the Southern Ocean (Kerry and Clippindale 1997).
Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )
Royal Penguins are often confused with Macaroni Penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) (Barham & Barham date unknown). In fact, both of these species were at one time considered to be the same species (Kerry and Clippindale 1997). They are the largest of the crested penguins standing about 70 cm in height. Females are usually slightly smaller than males. Both have yellow/orange and black crests that run from their sides all the way to the tops of their heads. The one distinguishing difference between Royal Penguins and Macaroni Penguins is that Royals have white chins and the Macaroni Penguins have black chins (Kerry and Clippindale 1997).
Range mass: 4000 to 5000 g.
Average length: 70 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
The only certain habitat of Eudyptes schlegeli is on Macquarie Island. The surface of the island is covered with rock and small shrubs.
Habitat and Ecology
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 212 samples.
Depth range (m): 0 - 0
Temperature range (°C): 5.950 - 5.950
Nitrate (umol/L): 19.829 - 19.829
Salinity (PPS): 34.005 - 34.005
Oxygen (ml/l): 6.975 - 6.975
Phosphate (umol/l): 1.408 - 1.408
Silicate (umol/l): 6.646 - 6.646
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
The diet of Eudyptes schlegeli consists primarily of euphausiid (26%) and myctophid (52%). Other forms of nourishment come from small fish, squid, and various crustaceans. One interesting observation is that different colonies of the penguins on Macquarie Island (notably the east and west coasts) show significant variations in diet (Kerry 1997).
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Royal Penguins are monogamous (Waas et al. 2000). Reproduction only occurs on Macquarie Island from September to March. The season is marked when males arrive and begin building nests made out of grass and lined with small stones. The nests are easily distinguished from other crested penguin nests (Royal 1998). Females arrive in early October and lay eggs near the end of the month. Eudyptes schlegeli are known to breed in both large and small colonies. The largest colony is estimated to have around 500,000 pairs, while smaller colonies can contain a mere 70 to 200 pairs.
Two eggs are laid in the nest but only the second egg is incubated (Waas et al. 2000). Incubation takes approximately 30 to 40 days. When the chick hatches the male protects and raises it for 10 to 20 days. During this time the female penguin gathers and brings food to the nest daily. At an age of about 70 days, the chick is capable of leaving the nest and subsisting on its own. Royal Penguins reach sexual maturity in approximately one year (Royal 1998).
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Eudyptes schlegeli
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eudyptes schlegeli
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
There remain roughly 850,000 living pairs of Royal Penguins today. The survival of the species has never been severly threatened. The recent government restrictions and control of Macquarie Island should only benefit Eudyptes schlegeli.
The only fear that scientists have noted is the very limited distribution of the Royal Penguin. A natural disaster could jeopardize the species since breeding only occurs on Macquarie Island.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Studies of foraging ecology and breeding biology have been completed. Monitoring of breeding population size and success is ongoing. Feral cats have now been eliminated from Macquarie Island. A rodent eradication programme was underway, but not completed in January 2012 (R. Gales in litt. 2012). Tourists on breeding islands are managed to prevent disturbance. Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to obtain an up-to-date population estimate. Determine trends in numbers. Monitor rates and effects of marine debris ingestion. Monitor the effects of fishing. Establish demographic parameters, particularly survival of different age classes. Study the potential impacts of climate change. Control rat populations.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Today the Royal Penguin provides no real economic gain to humans. Perhaps one could count Eudyptes schlegeli's aesthetic beauty that is observed by tourists on the government protected Macquarie Island. In years past, the species were killed and boiled down for their oil (Royal 1998). Fortunately, today there are more effective ways of getting similar oils and Royal Penguins are no longer hunted.
The royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) is a species of penguin, which can be found on the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island and adjacent islands. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the royal penguin as vulnerable. The scientific name commemorates the German zoologist Hermann Schlegel.
It is one of the crested penguins (a different genus from the similarly named king or emperor penguins). There is some controversy over whether royal penguins are a subspecies of macaroni penguins. Individuals of the two groups have been known to interbreed, though this is a relatively rare occurrence. Indeed, other penguins have been known to form mixed-species pairs in the wild.
They inhabit the waters surrounding Antarctica. Royals look very much like macaroni penguins, but have a white face and chin instead of the macaronis' black visage. They are 65–76 cm (26–30 in) long and weigh 3–8 kg (6.6–17.6 lb). Males are larger than females. Royal penguins breed only on Macquarie Island and, like other penguins, spend much of their time at sea, where they are assumed to be pelagic.
Royal penguins nest on beaches or on bare areas on slopes covered with vegetation. Like most seabirds they are colonial, nesting in scrapes on the ground up to a mile inland. The breeding season begins in September with laying starting in October. Two eggs are incubated for 35 days, with each incubation stint lasting up to two weeks. After brooding the chick for three weeks, both parents forage at sea while the chicks form large crèches. The chicks fledge after two months. Young adults usually return to the colony to breed after six years.
Royal penguins feed on krill, fish, and small amounts of squid. They build their nest by making a shallow hole in the sand or in a weeded area. They put plants and stones inside the nest. Most of the time, two eggs are laid, however, only one survives. The egg is kept warm by both parents for 35 days. This is done by rotating 12 day shifts. After hatching, the male watches out for the chick for 10 to 20 days and the female brings food for both of them. Around 20 days, the chicks will form a home for warmth and safety. The parents continue to feed it two to three times a day. When the chick is about 65 days old it will have its adult feathers and goes on its own.
Royal penguins as a species are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, with high risk of endangerment in the wild. Historically they were hunted for their oil; between 1870 and 1919 the government of Tasmania issuing licences for hunting them, with an average of 150,000 penguins (both royal and king) being taken each year. At the peak of the industry in 1905, the plant established on Macquarie Island was processing 2000 penguins at a time, with each penguin yielding about half a litre of oil.
Since the end of penguin hunting on Macquarie the numbers have climbed to 850,000 pairs. Before hunting started, there were three million penguins on the island (both royal and king).
- del Hoyo,J., Elliot, A., Sargatal, J., eds (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume One Ostritch to Ducks, ISBN 84-87334-10-5
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