Here’s 11 fun facts about the Little Penguins on Phillip Island – the stars of the nightly Penguin Parade.
The highlight of our Phillip Island Day Tour from Melbourne is watching thousands of Little Penguins waddle out of the ocean and across the sand at Summerland Beach. The nightly Penguin Parade has long been a major drawcard for visitors wanting to witness the cute little penguins up close.
Not only are they the world’s smallest penguins, but they are incredibly hardworking – living their lives on land and at sea.
Read on to find out all about these Little Penguins that make a visit to Phillip Island so special.
11 Fun Facts about the Little Penguins on Phillip Island
1. The Smallest Penguin
Australia’s Little Penguins are 40 – 45 cm tall and weigh up to 1.2 kg. Compared to the Emperor Penguin of Antarctica, they are very small indeed. The Emperor Penguins can be over 110 cm tall and weigh up to 30 kg.
2. The Only Blue and White Penguins
The Little Penguins have a blue or grey upper body and flippers, with a white underbelly. Juveniles are generally brown in colour. They have a black bill, pale pink webbed feet and large toes. The adult colouring provides camouflage for them at sea. Their predators can see only white from below and only blue from above.
3. Living Down Under
The Little Penguin occurs only in Australia and New Zealand. They are found nesting along the southern edge of Australia’s mainland and Tasmania. The majority of colonies exist on islands such as Kangaroo Island and Phillip Island.
4. Waterproof Penguins
The Little Penguins need to keep themselves waterproofed so that they can maintain a constant body temperature at sea. In order to do this they secrete an oily liquid from their tails they then rub over their feathers.
5. Life at Sea
The Little Penguin spend much of its life at sea, hunting for food. The penguins can sleep at sea by dozing on the water surface. They can travel distances of over 1000 km in the first year of their life alone. They use their small wings as flippers to swim through the water at as fast as 6 kilometres per hour. To catch fish, they can dive up to 60 metres below the surface.
6. Feeding at Sea
The Little Penguin will consume the equivalent of its body weight in food every day. At sea they feed on small fish, anchovies, pilchards, garfish and krill. They feed in shallow waters, hunting for small fish, as well as diving to the sea floor for squid and krill. Little Penguins swallow their catch whole, and will bring food home to the nest this way for their young.
7. Nesting in the Dunes
While they spend most of the day out at sea feeding, the Little Penguins come to shore to rest, mate and moult. They built burrows in the sand dunes but can also be found among rocks and caves.
8. The Yearly Moult
Every year the penguins must return to their burrows to moult. They shed their old feathers and grow new ones. Moulting can take up to 2 weeks. During this time they cannot return to sea to feed, as they are not waterproofed. Therefore, it is important that they fatten up by feeding more before the moulting period.
9. Male or Female?
Male and females Little Penguins are quite similar in appearance. However, the males tend to be bigger, with a deeper bill and larger head. Males are quite noisy when courting the female. In addition they will try to impress the females with their burrow. During courtship, both birds will stand erect with flippers spread, head bowed and walk in tight circles around the nesting site.
10. Eggs in the Nest
The female will lay 1 to 2 white eggs in the burrow. The males and females then share the job of incubating the eggs. They usually takes shifts of 1-2 days at a time. During this time, one parent will mind the eggs while the other goes to sea for food. The eggs generally hatch after 33-37 days.
11. Feeding the Chicks
Once the eggs have hatched it takes approximately a week for the chicks’ eyes to open. For the first five weeks the parents continue their shifts of hunting for food and remaining at the nest. At 5 weeks old the chicks are left alone while both parents head to sea to fish. It is at around eight weeks old that baby penguins will make their first trip out to sea.
The Penguin Parade at Phillip Island
Just under 2 hours drive from Melbourne is Phillip Island. It is famous for the colony of Little Penguins that make their homes on the island. Each night thousands of these penguins return from feeding in the ocean and waddle across the beach to their burrows in the sand dunes. The Penguin Parade is the best place to watch this phenomenon up close, without disturbing the penguins or their natural environment.
If our 11 Fun Facts about the Little Penguins on Phillip Island have inspired you to visit, you can join us on a day tour from Melbourne.
Visiting Phillip Island
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, the Bunurong / Boonwurrung people and pay respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
A visit to Phillip Island today reveals the incredible nature and wildlife that was once a part of the lives of the Yalluk Bulluk clan. The Phillip Island Nature Parks organisation cares for over 1,805 hectares of beaches, bushland and wetland reserves. They focus on conservation and research to protect the wildlife and natural resources on the island.
Summer on the island now attracts many tourists and Melburnians to enjoy the seaside location and beaches. The nightly Penguin Parade is the most popular attraction. It draws thousands of tourists to view the colony of Little Penguins as they return from fishing at sea, to their burrows in the sand dunes.
What to expect on our Phillip Island Tour
Our Phillip Island Day Tour lets you experience the best of Victoria’s nature and wildlife – all in one day trip from Melbourne. Here are the highlights of the tour.
- A visit to the famous Brighton Beach boxes
- A guided tour at the award-winning Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park
- Meet and feed a wide range of Australian animals including koalas, wombats, dingoes, and many more
- Visit Point Grant to view the Nobbies and Seal Rock
- Stroll the coastal boardwalks to enjoy amazing panoramic views
- See the penguins waddle up the Phillip Island Penguin Parade at sunset
Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator @gowest.com.au