1. Observe from a distance
Penguins in New Zealand are extremely timid on land and are easily disturbed, which can lead to penguins abandoning their chicks. The best way to watch penguins, if you are lucky enough to spot some, is to observe them from a distance. It’s best tohideso that they can’t see you, keep quiet and keep still. If you have to move, move slowly.
2. Don’t look for burrows
Many of New Zealand’s penguins nest in coastal vegetation, so don’t rummage around these areas in case you disturb a nest. Never approach birds in their nests. Again, this can lead to the chicks being abandoned.
3. Slow down when driving in penguin areas
On the coastal roads around the South Island, particularly around Dunedin, Akaroa, Oamaru and the West Coast, it’s common to see penguins crossing the roads at night on their way to nesting sites. These areas are usually signposted with a penguin road sign, so slow down in these areas and let the penguins cross the road.
4. Don’t approach a “scruffy” looking penguin
Between November and March, penguins shed their feathers and grow new feathers each year. Penguins look a little “scruffy” at this time of the year, with many people mistaking moulting penguins for being sick. Leave moulting penguins alone, especially as it is the most stressful time of the year for penguins.
5. Keep dogs away from penguin habitats
For those of you travelling with dogs, make sure you keep your dog on a leash near penguin nesting areas. On most beaches in the South Island, it’s best to keep your dog in control at all times. Keep your dog away from dunes or coastal vegetation especially, as dogs are known to kill penguins.