Little Penguins and Petrels Surveyed in Auckland

First-of-its-kind seabird survey in Auckland, New Zealand has been published, offering insight into seabird conservation needs.

Native wildlife of New Zealand have been coping with invasive species ever since humans first arrived on the island nation’s shores. While it is people that are responsible for the presence of invasive species in New Zealand, it is also people that have the power to address this ecological crisis that threatens native wildlife with extinction.

Invasive species removal projects, captive breeding programs, and research all contribute to the same goal of correcting human-caused ecological imbalance. In New Zealand, researchers have published a first-of-its kind comprehensive survey of ōi (Grey-faced Petrels) and kororā (Little Penguins) living on the west coast of Auckland. The study aims to shed life on the scope and health of New Zealand’s seabird populations.


A Grey-faced Petrel flying off the coast of Victoria, Australia. Credit: Ed Dunens

Todd Landers, a scientist from Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation unit (or RIMU), teamed up with seabird detection dog “Rua,” and together they found 97 Grey-faced Petrel nests (14 of which had chicks present) and 13 Little Penguin nests.

The survey also revealed the presence of invasive rats, feral cats, and rabbits were also encountered in this seabird habitat. Landers remarked:

Although we found a relatively small number of breeding birds, this survey shows we have a real opportunity for conservation management to help protect and enhance grey-faced petrels and little penguins.


A blue penguin hiding behind leaves. Credit: Sy

Landers also offers advice for residents and visitors of New Zealand who might venture into this important and sensitive region:

If you are walking on the beach or tracks, please keep your distance from any seabirds and their nest and roost sites, remain quiet, and leave them be. If you take photos, please don’t use flash photography.

The study includes guidelines for actions that could help protect seabird populations and will be reviewed by the council’s Parks, Biosecurity, and Biodiversity teams, followed by a public consultation on the council’s approach to pest management.

Listen to Todd talking about the issue on and view the research
Featured photo: Little Blue Penguin in New Zealand. Credit: Alexandre Roux

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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