Tiny devices will reveal fishing secrets
Fishing habits of the West Coast's little blue penguins will be revealed by a new three-year study using global positioning satellite (GPS) technology.
The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust began the pilot programme a few weeks ago, sticking matchbox-sized GPS units to eight breeding penguins in colonies at Charleston and Cape Foulwind.
Trust ranger Reuben Lane said it was the first time that little blue penguins had been tracked foraging for food off the West Coast.
"We would like to find out if penguins are targeting specific locations and if their food supply is limiting a population recovery."
The information would prove important for the trust's involvement in such debates as marine reserves.
He said one of the first penguins tracked stayed out fishing for four days before returning to Charleston to feed its chick and swap roles with its partner.
Typically, breeding pairs took turns to leave the nest to fish and headed to a known food source to forage for 1-2 days on average, Lane said.
Another tracked penguin travelled almost 30km off the coast and swam an impressive 90km in a single day.
Little blue penguins mainly ate small fish and squid but weather and water temperature made their preferred food more difficult to find at certain times , he said.
Earlier this year, Lane went to the research facility at Penguin Place on Phillip Island in Victoria, Australia to learn how to use the GPS units.
The tiny $70 units were stuck on to the penguins' backs just above their tails using special waterproof tape and started recording once they hit the water.
- © Fairfax NZ News