Rockhopper penguins are a small species of crested penguin, notable for the spiky yellow feathers that form a crest above and behind the eyes.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Aves
Order - Sphenisciformes
Family - Spheniscidae
Genus - Eudyptes
Species - E. chrysocome
Common Names – Rockhopper Penguin, Moseley's Penguin, Moseley's Rockhopper
One of the smallest penguin species in the world, rockhoppers don't grow longer than 20 inches. Like all crested penguins, they have spiky feathers above and behind their eyes. Rockhoppers have red eyes and orange beaks, and like many other penguins are black above and white on their undersides.
Rockhoppers are very widespread, and their breeding habits differ depending on the population. Northern penguins begin the mating season earlier than southern rockhoppers. They lay two eggs, one of which often doesn't hatch. The remaining egg usually hatches after about a month. They will return to the same nests year after year, which they build on rocky slopes out of peat and pebbles.
Rockhoppers eat mainly krill, but also eat crabs, small lobsters and squid. They can spend many days at sea when they're hunting for food, and can dive over 300 feet underwater.
Rockhopper penguins have a convoluted classification history. There are two distinct types, southern and northern, with occasionally a third type recognized, the eastern. They are sometimes considered subspecies of the main rockhopper species, although some taxonomists consider them all separate species. Further complicated matters is the royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) which may be a white-faced color morph of the rockhopper rather than a separate species.
The southern rockhopper is considered "Vulnerable" while the northern population is "Endangered". While rockhopper penguins are one of the most numerous penguin species, their populations have declined steeply over the last hundred years. The specific reasons are not known at this time, but overfishing of their food source and pollution are believed to be prominent factors.