Return of Bird of the Week: Rockhopper Penguin


One of the striking things about penguins is the steep-sided hillsides some species favor and climb to get to their rookeries. As you watch a flightless penguin waddle along, mountain-climbing isn’t the kind of skill you expect. And among the best climbers is the Rockhopper Penguin.

Rockhoppers are a sub-antarctic species. These photos are from a rookery at West Point Island in the Falkland Islands.

Rockhopper Penguin couple on eggs

Rockhopper Penguin couple on eggs

The rookery is located on a steep, rocky headland, shared with Black-browed Albatrosses and King Shags (Cormorants). It’s about 800 feet above the South Atlantic. The Rockhoppers climb that steep, slippery, rocky slope multiple times a day.

Rockhoppers starting up the hill to the rookery, New Island, Falkland Islands

Rockhoppers starting up the hill to the rookery, New Island, Falkland Islands

The Rockhoppers roll in on the 15-foot seas and start the climb up the steep, slimy rock. How they avoid injury when those big rollers hit the rocks is a mystery.

Continuing the climb up, jumping up here about 20-24 inches from ledge to ledge

Continuing the climb up, jumping up here about 20-24 inches from ledge to ledge

Here they are about half way up the climb. The birds hunch their heads an necks forward just before they jump.

Rockhopper rockhopping, because you have to descend, too

Rockhopper rockhopping, because you have to descend, too

Descent seemed to WC to be even more perilous. The rocks are slimy with algae, guano and mud. Yet the birds move down seemingly without breaking stride. It’s astonishing to watch.

Rockhopper Penguin: Not a mountain climber's physique, but a mountain climber

Rockhopper Penguin: Not a mountain climber’s physique, but a mountain climber

Advertisements