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Eudyptes chrysocome 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Sphenisciformes Spheniscidae

Scientific Name: Eudyptes chrysocome
Species Authority: (Forster, 1781)
Common Name(s):
English Southern Rockhopper Penguin, Rockhopper Penguin
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Taxonomic Notes: Eudyptes chrysocome (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into E. chrysocome and E. moseleyi following Jouventin et al. (2006) on the basis of clear morphological, vocal and genetic terms, and this treatment has been accepted here following a review by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group. However, although E. filholi has been proposed as a split from E. chrysocome by Banks et al. (2006), both the sample sizes and the degree of morphological difference are small and this view is not accepted here.

Identification information: Identification. 55 cm. Average weight of 3.35 kg. A robust body with white underparts and slate-grey upperparts. Distinctive red eyes and a short reddish brown bill. A straight yellow eyebrow ending in sideways projecting plumes extends above the eye. Similar species. The Southern Rockhopper Penguins differ from their Northern counterparts in having a narrower supercilium and shorter plumes, which reach just over the black throat. Immature birds have only a narrow supercilium and a pale mottled grey chin.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2abcde+3bcde+4abcde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Gales, R., Hilton, G., Huin, N., Kirkwood, R., Moore, P., Raya-Rey, A. & Schiavini, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Allinson, T, Benstead, P., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Taylor, J.
This species has been classified as Vulnerable owing to rapid population declines, which, although they have been on-going for perhaps a century, appear to have worsened in recent years.

Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2010 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 2008 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 2004 – Not Recognized (NR)
  • 2000 – Not Recognized (NR)
  • 1994 – Not Recognized (NR)
  • 1988 – Not Recognized (NR)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Eudyptes chrysocome breeds on islands located in the South Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, ranging from 46º S in the South Atlantic Ocean and South Indian Oceans to Macquarie Island at 54ºS in the Southern Ocean. The species occurs as two subspecies. E. c. chrysocome breeds on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), at 55 distinct breeding colonies (total of 210,418 breeding pairs in 2005), and a number of offshore islands in southern Argentina and Chile (Isla de los Estados: 173,793 pairs in 1998, Isla Pinguino: 501 pairs in 2007, Isla Ildefonso: 86,400 pairs in 2006, Diego Ramirez: 132,721 pairs in 2002, Isla Noir: 158,200 pairs in 2005, Isla Barnevelt: 10,800 pairs in 1992, Cape Horn: 600 pairs in 1992, Isla Terhalten: 1,000 pairs in 2005 and Isla Buenaventura: 500 pairs in 1992 [Shiavini et al. 2005, BirdLife International 2010]). Subspecies E. c. filholi breeds on Prince Edward: 38,000 pairs in 2008/2009 and Marion Islands: 42,000 pairs in 2008/2009 (South Africa) (Crawford et al. 2009), Crozet Islands: 152,800 pairs in 1982, Kerguelen Islands: 85,500 pairs in 1985 (French Southern Territories), Heard Island: 10,000 pairs in 1987 (Heard and McDonald Islands [to Australia]), Macquarie Island: 37,500 pairs in 2007 (Australia) and Campbell: 51,000 pairs in 1986, Auckland and Antipodes Islands (New Zealand). Other than the populations in Chile and Argentina, which may have increased (Oeler et al. 2008), all other subpopulations have undergone severe declines (Ellis et al. 1998): for example, approximately 1.5 million pairs are estimated to have been lost from Campbell Island (94% of the original total) between 1942 and 1986 (Cunningham and Moors 1994, Huin 2007), and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) population fell by around 1.4 million pairs between 1932 and 2005 (87% of the original total) (Pütz et al. 2003). Several other sites appear to have suffered severe declines (of more than 40%) between the 1970s and the 1990s: Marion Island (Crawford et al. 2003), Antipodes Islands and Auckland Islands (Ellis et al. 1998). Population modelling, based on those breeding sites that have been accurately surveyed, indicates that over the past 37 years (three generations) the number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins has declined by 34% (BirdLife International 2010).
Countries occurrence:
Argentina; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); Heard Island and McDonald Islands; New Zealand; South Africa
Present - origin uncertain:
Australia; French Southern Territories; Uruguay
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:3640Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:9510000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):60
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population is estimated at just over 1.23 million pairs (Birdlife International 2010). The Falkland Islands (Malvinas), with 55 distinct breeding colonies, had a total of 210,418 breeding pairs in 2005. Isla de los Estados (Argentina) had 173,793 in 1998. In Chile, there are large colonies on Isla Diego Ramirez (132,721 pairs in 2002), Isla Noir (158,200 pairs in 2005) and Isla Ildefonso (86,400 pairs in 2006). In the Indian Ocean there are populations on the Prince Edward Islands (80,000 pairs in 2008/2009 [Crawford et al. 2009]) (South Africa), Crozet Islands (152,800 pairs in 1982), Kerguelen Islands (85,500 pairs in 1985) (French Southern Territories) and Heard Island (10,000 pairs in 1987) (Heard and McDonald Islands [to Australia]). There are also significant populations on Campbell Island (51,000 pairs in 1986) (New Zealand) and Macquarie (37,500 pairs in 2007) (Australia) (BirdLife International 2010). Several populations have experienced major long-term population crashes. Approximately 1.5 million pairs are estimated to have been lost from Campbell Island (94% of the original total) between 1942 and 1986 (Cunningham and Moors 1994), and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) population fell by around 1.4 million pairs between 1932 and 2005 (87% of the original total) (Pütz et al. 2003). Several other sites appear to have suffered severe declines. Between 1994/1995 and 2008/2009, numbers at Marion Island decreased by about 70%, from 160,000 pairs to 42 000 pairs (Crawford et al. 2009). Population modelling, based on those breeding sites that have been accurately surveyed, indicates that over the past 37 years (three generations) the number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins has declined by 34% (BirdLife International 2010).

Trend Justification:  A decline of 30.8% over the last three generations (30 years), as calculated from survey data, has been driven largely by the declines in the Falklands (where data are most complete), and to a lesser extent, Marion Island. The Falklands declines may be even steeper: using the less uncertain 2000 estimate (instead of 1995) requires greater extrapolation, but this would yield an overall decline of 55.2%.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1000000-2499999Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species returns to its breeding colonies in October, which range from sea-level sites to cliff-tops, and sometimes inland. Two eggs are laid and incubated during November and December for 32-34 days. In February, the chicks fledge and depart the colony (BirdLife International 2010). At most breeding sites, only one chick is fledged by each successful pair. However, there is some evidence that it is not unusual for those in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) to raise two chicks (Clausen and Pütz 2002). They are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods (Williams 1995).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):11.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): It is not yet clear what is driving current population declines. Egg collection was common at some colonies until the 1950s, such as in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), but is now prohibited. Penguins were taken historically as bait for use in crab pots at a number of sites, including some Chilean islands (Ryan and Cooper 1991, P. G. Ryan in litt. 1999). The disappearance of the colony on Isla Recalada in Chile indicates that human depredation, in this case the collection of zoological specimens and as bait for crab pots (Oehler et al. 2007), is still a serious threat to colonies where sites are not well protected and are accessible. The number of birds taken in recent years from other Chilean colonies is less than 500 individuals per year (BirdLife International 2010). At some sites, introduced grazing animals have caused significant vegetation loss and at Macquarie Island, overgrazing by rabbits has led to serious landslips. The effect of grazing by goats and deer at Isla de los Estados is not known and should be investigated. There are very few records of disease outbreaks, although few colonies are visited regularly. Avian cholera has caused deaths of a small number of adults and chicks at Campbell Island in 1985/86 (de Lisle et al. 1990). The massive mortality event on the Falklands in 2002/2003 was due to a Harmful Algal Bloom (Uhart et al. 2007). The number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins affected by oil pollution is currently not thought to be as great as in the past, when 40,000 Magellanic Penguins Spheniscus magellanicus were estimated to be contaminated annually in Argentina (Gandini et al. 1994). In Patagonian coastal waters, hydrocarbon exploitation is a threat (Ellis et al. 1998). Other important factors include interactions with fisheries, the effects of climate change, for example in causing a drop in primary productivity that reduces prey availability or causing bottom-up food web shifts that reduce prey availability, top-down changes in food web structure leading to increased inter-specific competition and top-down changes in food web structure leading to increased secondary predation. For example, one possible ‘top-down’ effect on the eudyptid penguins is competition with (and predation by) rapidly increasing pinniped—especially fur seal—populations (Barlow et al. 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Regular monitoring is undertaken on the Falklands, Marion, and Campbell Islands (Cuthbert and Sommer 2004, Cuthbert and Sommer in press). Several ecological and demographic studies have been undertaken (Ellis et al. 1998, Guinard et al. 1998). Marion islands with breeding colonies are reserves. Research has attempted to determine the cause of historic declines using stable isotope analysis of museum skins (G. Hilton et al. 2006). An International Species Action Plan and a series of Regional Action Plans have been developed (BirdLife International 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue or start to monitor all populations, in order to assess trends (Guinard et al. 1998, BirdLife International 2010). Conduct long-term demographic studies to understand the causes of the current decline (BirdLife International 2010). Conduct research into spatial and temporal links between population trends, sea-surface temperature and primary productivity (BirdLife International 2010). Investigate the possible impact of oil exploitation (Guinard et al. 1998). Conduct studies to assess interactions with commercial fisheries (Ellis et al. 1998). Study the potential impacts of climate change. Assess the threat from introduced predators. Reduce disturbance from ecotourism through the use of codes of conduct.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Eudyptes chrysocome. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22735250A37849176. . Downloaded on 30 June 2016.
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