Little blue penguin rescued from Avon River to fatten him up
The little blue penguin spotted in the Avon River in central Christchurch has been taken to a wildlife rehabilitation centre to fatten up.
The penguin, believed to be male, has been named Avon in a nod to his long journey up the river.
Penguin rehabilitation officers Thomas Stracke and Kristina Schutt have cared for the wild bird since it was rescued on Friday.
Stracke said nursing Avon was "going good and he's gaining weight quickly."
He likes anchovies and is happy little penguin, he said.
Another rescued bird, a white flippered penguin named Burton, was his friend at the facility.
"Due to his size, we think Avon is a male but we aren't sure. He's pretty big", Stracke said.
When he arrived at the centre at their home he weighed approximately 700 grams, about as much as two cans of soup.
On a steady diet of fish, Avon had gained 150 grams in five days.
He needed to reach at least 1.1 kilograms before he was released back into the wild, which would take a few days.
Stracke said the penguin would have died if he had been left in the river.
"So many people walk their dogs down there. I have seen dogs chasing ducklings, sometimes they even go in the water. He would certainly have perished."
Penguins need saltwater to survive, and wild life workers worried he would get lost in the river.
Department of Conservation ranger Anita Spencer said the penguin was "a bit underweight, but otherwise healthy."
"He had been in there (the Avon) quite a while and didn't seem to be making his way out of the river."
The river flows into the Avon Heathcote Estuary, several kilometres away.
He had been swimming up and down the rapids when contractors working on Oxford Tce reported seeing the sea bird, which soon drew a crowd of would-be penguin spotters.
The 25-centimetre-tall birds can reach speeds of up to 6kmh underwater, and usually only come ashore at night.
Spencer said they wanted to do precautionary checks on the bird to make sure he was healthy, so a wild life team headed down to the river to fish him out.
A fishing net, and "a bit of skill from a fishermans daughter" was all it took to catch the bird.
"I saw him yesterday and he is looking great now", she said.
Little blue penguins, or korora, are the world's smallest penguins and are commonly seen around the New Zealand coastline.