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Get to know the rockhopper penguins

By Ethan Smit
- Animals, Blog, Penguins
Get to know the rockhopper penguins

We all love penguins, right? These cuties possess the unique ability to capture our hearts without even doing much. Rockhopper penguins are the epitome of this. So, now that we can all agree that these animals are the cutest around, let's get to know them beyond their extremely adorable exteriors. 

Rockhopper penguins or ‘’rockies”, as we like to call them, are among the smaller species of penguin. In fact, they are the smallest of the crested penguin species. These animals grow to about 50cm high. Like most penguins, rockhopper penguins have white bellies while the rest of their bodies are black. However, certain characteristics. Like their red eye, orange beaks, yellow and black feather, and pink webbed feet, set them apart from the rest. When it comes to chicks these traits are not all prevalent. For example, rockhopper penguins are born without feathers and develop them with age. They also initially sport black beaks, that later turn orange as they get older.

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Fun fact:

Males and female rockhopper penguins cannot be distinguished visually, so a DNA test is conducted by taking a feather from the bird to determine its gender

Why are they called rockhopper penguins?

Rockhopper penguins live on inaccessible coasts in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. As a result of the harsh rocky environments they inhabit, they are not able to slide on their bellies like most penguins. Rockies have thus developed an incredible jumping ability that helps them get from one place to the next.

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Rockhoppers lay two eggs and protect them aggressively. Parents take turns incubating the eggs, of which only one normally hatches. For up to 26 days after the chick has hatched, the male protects it while the female forages and brings back food for the chick.

A typical rockhopper penguin diet consists of small crustaceans, which may include lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, or crabs. However, the most frequent item on the rockhopper menu is krill, which they consume more than fish. The diets of these animals tends to change depending during migration or depending on the season. Rockhopper penguins can be out at sea for long periods of time while hunting – sometimes several days. They can also dive down to depths of 100m for minutes on end while searching for prey.

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The rockies at the Two Oceans Aquarium

The rockhopper penguins in the aquarium were found stranded on southern Cape beaches and rehabilitated by the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) before being donated to the aquarium. Unfortunately, they cannot be released because of the risk of introducing diseases into wild populations.

Did you know?

Courtesy of a Two Oceans Aquarium Penguin Experience, visitors can join our bird keeper for an informative, fun and exhilarating face-to-face experience with our feathered friends. During this time, visitors will learn how the penguins are cared for at the Two Oceans Aquarium, discover their stories, and have the chance to meet the penguins behind the scenes.

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