Hoiho

Yellow-eyed Penguin

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Along the wild south-east coast of the South Island seabirds shrill and swoop in the late afternoon sun. Far below, yellow-eyed penguins come ashore, singly, or in twos and three, after a long day of fishing in the chill South Pacific.Glistening wet, webbed feet a bright pink, these yellow-eyed birds of the sea scramble from the frothy waves onto the slippery rocks or ride the surging surf onto sandy beaches. Soon they set off with trundling gait to make the exhausting climb up steep sand dunes or over grassy headlands. Trudging nestward through the blustery twilight some penguins travel more than a kilometre before reaching nests secreted away in scrub or straggly remnants of coastal vegetation. By nightfall the breeding communities echo with trills and vibrant calls of penguins greeting each other at their isolated, hidden nests.

Ringing above the roar of the sea, the piercing calls of this tall, handsome bird were well known to the Maori. They named the singer "Hoiho", the noise shouter.

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