Animals & Attractions

We are currently home to a small colony of northren rockhopper penguins. They are the smallest species of penguins we have at Edinburgh Zoo, but what they lack in size they made up for in attitude!

On World Penguin Day, 25 April 2017, our keepers were delighted to announce the arrival of the Zoo’s first rockhopper penguin chick in eight years.

In 2018 we had further success with three chicks hatching. 

Location in the Zoo

They can normally be found in our Penguins Rock enclosure.

Our rockhoppers start nesting in February/March each year, in what is called the creche area of Penguins Rock. Any eggs will be laid in March/April with any chicks hatching at the end of April or the beginning of May. If you visit the Zoo in August/September, you will see the rockhoppers looking particularly scruffy as they go through their annual moult.

Breeding Programme Category:

Our northren rockhoppers are managed by the European Stud Book programme.


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In The Wild

Scientists previously believed there was only one species of rockhopper penguin however they have now been split into two, northern and southern, We are currently home to northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) which are found in the southern ocean. They breed on a number of southern ocean islands, with the largest populations found on the islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough, and smaller populations on the islands of Amsterdam and St Paul. They are the smallest of the crested species of penguins and while they are similar in appearance with striking yellow crests on their heads and distinctive red eyes, the crests are denser and longer in the northern species.

These penguins are noisy and quarrelsome, and get their name from their ability to hop from rock to rock. They use a series of bounds with both feet together to climb steep rock faces and then reach their rocky nesting sites by hopping over the surrounding rocks. They breed in large colonies and feed on krill and other crustaceans as well as on squid, octopus, and fish.

Females usually producing a clutch of two eggs, however it is only the chick from the larger of the two eggs that is likely to survive to adulthood. Both parents help to incubate the eggs for approximately 30 days. Once hatched, the male will remain to raise the chick for the first 25 days, while the female brings food back to the nest. After this time, the chick will leave the nest, and gather with other chicks in small groups known as 'crèches' whilst their parents forage for food.

Populations of rockhopper penguins have been declining over the last century, but recent, more rapid declines in their numbers have caused concern. The cause of these swift declines are currently unknown, however they may be suffering from increased levels of predation, as well as competition for food, as a result of the rapidly increasing population of Subantarctic fur seals. Other reasons may include disturbance and pollution, introduced predators and reduced food due to overfishing.

Northern Rockhopper penguins

Project Pinnamin

Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, the majority of northern rockhopper penguins are found on Gough Island and islands in the Tristan da Cunha group. Approximately two million pairs (or 98%) of penguins were lost from Gough Island between 1955 and 2006, and numbers on Tristan da Cunha are thought to have declined from the hundreds of thousands in the 1870s to just 5,000 pairs by 1955.

Project Pinnamin is a collaboration between RZSS, the British Antarctic Survey, RSPB, Tristan Conservation and the Government of South Africa – will lead to improved understanding of factors limiting the northern rockhopper penguin population on Tristan da Cunha and will facilitate the implementation of appropriate conservation measures.

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