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Posted on 09/05/2022 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Phillip Island Little Penguins make history with record crossing numbers


A record 5,219 little penguins have swum into shore at Phillip Island and waddled up the beach to their burrows
– the highest number recorded since 1968.
It was no fluke, with more than 4,500 penguins counted the week prior. Each night last week between 3,000 and
5,000 penguins came in, delighting visitors who are once again packing the stands at the Parade.
Before this, the record was 4,435, which was set last year, with the average number of penguins coming home
each night in 2021 ranging from around 700 in July to 2,300 in November.
Scientists believe an abundance of food close to shore and the population’s preparation for an Autumn breeding
attempt may be behind the soaring penguin numbers.
“We couldn’t believe our eyes when more than 5,000 penguins came out of the water in less than an hour,” said
Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Research Technical Officer Paula Wasiak.
“It’s been a penguin party night after night, which is unusual for this time of year, let alone in record numbers
like we are seeing now.”
The highest number of penguin crossings usually happen during the peak of the breeding season in November
and December.
“It appears an abundance of food close to shore is allowing the penguins to gear up for the biggest Autumn
breeding attempt we've even seen,” Ms Wasiak said.
“While penguins usually breed during Spring and Summer, older, more experienced birds are known to take
advantage of a secondary peak in marine productivity in Autumn, which can result in an increase in colony
attendance and breeding behaviour.”
The 40,000 strong colony at Phillip Island is the largest in the world, thanks to excellent breeding conditions and
the conservation efforts of Phillip Island Nature Parks.
“One of the main areas we're seeing an increase in penguin attendance is to the east of the colony. In the past
poor habitat and erosion in this area meant penguins had difficulty accessing and nesting there,” said Ms
Wasiak.
“A lot of work has gone into improving dune structure, creating penguin pathways and restoring habitat, which
is now paying off.”
The record penguin numbers come after the Penguin Parade’s busiest Easter and school holidays since 2019,
with the parade booked out every night.
A return to strong visitor numbers means the Guided Ranger Tour and Ultimate Tour experiences will return
nightly from next month.