Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Theme area:  Antarctica
Scientific name:  Eudyptes chrysocome
Class:  Birds
Order:   Sphenisciformes - Penguins
Family:   Spheniscidae
Continent:  Antarctica
Habitat:  Rocky cliff
Diet:  Piscivore
Weight:  2.3 - 4.3kg
Size:  40 - 58cm
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European Ex-situ Programme (EEP)

European Ex-situ Programme (EEP)

Of the 18 species of penguins, there are 6 species of Crested penguins, all of which are characterised by the presence of yellow crests on either side of their heads.  The Rockhopper penguin has a very large, black head. Its plumage is black on the back and white on the belly.


The species does not exhibit sexual dimorphism.  This penguin measures between 40 and 58 cm and weighs between 2.3 and 4.3 kg. It reaches sexual maturity between 3 and 8 years of age.  The chicks are weaned after 65 to 75 days.  Its longevity is 15 to 20 years.



Southern Rockhopper penguins live in the sub-Antarctic region.

Because it is found in the Kerguelen and Crozet Islands, the Rockhopper penguin is included as part of French wildlife.



Rockhopper penguins come ashore to mate, raise their young and moult.  They live on rocky seaside cliffs.  When they return to the sea after the breeding season, they are pelagic, i.e. they live in the open sea.



Rockhopper penguins are so named because they move in short jumps.  It is a gregarious bird, living in large colonies and sharing them with other seabird species.  In October, the male begins searching for a nesting site. He builds his nest on top of the cliffs.  It is a simple hollow surrounded by small stones, twigs and feathers.  Once the nest is ready, the female joins the male.  The pair may remain together for years and return to the same site each season, but if a new female arrives first, the male will mate with her.  After mating, a first small egg (alpha) will be laid in November or December.  Four to five days later, a second, larger egg (beta) will follow. Incubation lasts between 32 and 34 days. The male and the female take turns incubating the eggs, alternating every 10 to 15 days. The beta egg will be incubated longer than the alpha egg which generally leads to the loss of the alpha.  Chicks' heads and backs are covered with grey-brown down, while their bellies are covered with white down.  The parents look after the beta chick for 25 days. They then go out to sea to feed.  In the meantime, all the chicks gather in the nursery.  In February, after 65 to 75 days of growth, the chicks moult and become independent by going out to sea. Juveniles are recognisable by their small size and shorter, less bright yellow crests. The adult moult takes place in April after the offspring have been reared and lasts for one to one and a half months, during which time they do not go into the water to feed.



Mainly krill (a type of mini crustacean), squid and small fish which they catch between 0 and 100 m below the surface.



Blue sharks and Fur and Leopard seals prey on the adults.  Skuas, Giant Petrels and Seagulls prey on the eggs and chicks.



In some areas, the population has declined by 30% over the last 30 years.   The reasons for the decline are thought to be multiple, including intensive fishing and disease. Human presence is also a source of nuisance, reduction of living space and introduction of animal species such as rats and cats.



Reduce the impact of human activities in areas inhabited by the species.

Develop environmentally friendly fishing techniques.

Consume fish from eco-responsible fishing.



Extinct in the wild
Critically endangered
Near threatened
Least concern
Insufficient data
Not evaluated


How do you tell the difference between a penguin from the South Pole (in French: MANCHOT) and one from the North Pole (in French: PINGOUIN)? Of course, primarily it’s based on their distribution: 'Manchots' live in the Southern Hemisphere and 'Pingouins' live in the Northern Hemisphere.

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