Phillip Island beach hosts penguin party as 5,000 penguins gather to mark 54-year record
Aussie beach sees most penguins EVER as they start breeding: ‘It’s been a party night after night’
- 5,219 penguins arrived on the shores of Phillip Island beach in Victoria last week
- The record event was the most little penguins since 1968
- An abundance of food and preparation for breeding may be the cause of a higher number
An Australian beach hosted a record “penguin party” with more than 5,000 birds – the highest number in 54 years.
In less than an hour, some 5,219 little penguins swam to the shores of Victoria’s Phillip Island beach on May 3 and waddled across the stretch of sand known as ‘Penguin Parade’ to their burrows.
The record event was the highest number of penguins recorded since 1968 and was unexpected given that it occurred outside of the usual spring and summer breeding period.
Phillip Island Nature Parks spokeswoman Paula Wasiak said the penguins’ preparation for a record breeding season could be the reason for the surge in numbers.
“It appears that an abundance of food near the shore is allowing the penguins to prepare for the biggest fall breeding attempt we have ever seen,” she said.
Some 5,219 little penguins swam to the shores of Phillip Island beach in Victoria (pictured) and waddled to their burrows
Ms Wasiak said staff ‘couldn’t believe their eyes’ as they watched the penguins waddle on the beach.
“It was a night after night penguin party, which is unusual for this time of year, let alone record numbers as we see now,” Ms Paula Wasiak said.
“While penguins typically breed in the spring and summer, older, more experienced birds are known to enjoy a secondary peak in marine productivity in the fall, which can lead to increased colony visitation and reproductive behavior.”
Scientists believe that an abundance of food near the shore, conservation efforts and an attempt to reproduce in autumn could be behind the record-breaking event (pictured, razorbills crossing ‘Penguin Parade’ in the nature parks of Philip Island)
The previous record had been set the previous week with over 4,500 penguins counted in one night. Nature park researchers counted between 3,000 and 5,000 penguins each night that week.
The average number of penguins that returned to the shores of Phillip Island last year ranged between 700 and 2,300.
Phillip Island has the largest small colony of penguins in the world – 40,000 strong.
Excellent breeding conditions and conservation efforts by authorities to improve dune structure and restore habitats likely also contributed to the increase.
“One of the main areas where we are seeing an increase in penguin visitation is to the east of the colony,” Ms Wasiak said.
“In the past, poor habitat and erosion in this area meant penguins had difficulty accessing and nesting there.
“A lot of work has gone into improving dune structure, creating penguin pathways and restoring habitat, which is paying off.”
The Easter school holidays marked the park’s busiest time yet with the Penguin Parade booked out, as visitors filled stalls near the beach to catch a glimpse of the cute animals as they arrived each evening.
Visitors filled the viewing booths at Phillip Island Nature Parks (pictured) to watch the penguins make their way across the sand
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