January 11, 2018 at 4:25 pm
Here we are, then. 2018, which will mark the fifth season of the Tawaki Project.
We have been quiet these past few weeks. The reason for that is that we were ‘out at sea’ with other projects. Of course, so were the penguins. Between mid-November and mid-December, the adult tawaki saw their chicks fledge and then headed off on their pre-moult journeys. Since then, the birds are absent from the mainland.
Well, until yesterday. We received word that the first tawaki have returned from their pre-moult journey.
Where the penguins go over the Holidays was a mystery. That is, until we managed to deploy satellite transmitters on birds from Gorge River at the end of the 2016 breeding season. The devices allowed us track the penguins all the way through until late February and March 2017. Some of the devices fell off pretty early on, other birds lost the trackers half way through their trips. But overall we managed to record more than 3000 positions from 17 penguins.
So, where do tawaki go at this time of the year?
Well, surprisingly they go a considerable distance. In early January, about half of the birds are somewhere in the middle of sub-Antarctic waters west of Macquarie Island. The others have reached South Tasman Rise, an area of shallow waters (well, relatively shallow at 400 m deep) about 800 km south of Tasmania.
To get there, the penguins travel between 1,500 and 2,500 km away from their breeding colony covering distances of 4,500 to 6,500 km. This is more than twice the distance their cousin-species Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins travel during their pre-moult trips.
There you are, another record broken by tawaki. They turn out to be true super-penguins!