Wellington Scoop

Little blue penguins stay away from their home under sushi bar outside station

Photo from RNZ

Report from RNZ by Michael Cropp
Nary a flipper, fin or feather was spotted by DOC rangers at the Wellington railway station this morning. Rangers were on the lookout for Little Blue Penguins, after two had to be removed – twice – from under a sushi store near the railway station yesterday, and put in a nesting box on the waterfront.

DOC senior ranger Robert Ashe checked the area around the sushi shop about an hour before sunrise, but the penguins had started their day much earlier.

“They’ve probably gone out to sea to swim where they fish, and start the day filling up their bellies with food, getting in prime condition for nesting,” Mr Ashe said.

He helped relocate the pair to a new nesting box among the rocks on the harbour’s edge last night.

“I was just providing them some nesting materials so they could make a better home there … when we put them in the box they came out, checked the neighbourhood. And then they went back into the box and started cooing to each other which is a really good sign that they’re comfortable and relaxed.”

Kororā, which grow to 25cm tall and weigh about 1kg, were pairing up and looking for a good nest at the moment. If they liked it, they would return night after night and their chicks would also return to the area to make their own nests, DOC said. “Hopefully we’ve given them enough hints this is not a suitable place,” Mr Ashe said.

The response to the two penguins has involved several police officers, DOC rangers, passersby, the odd journo, and now international media. All that was an over-reaction said a taxi driver, who parked next to the sushi shop about 5am each day.

“Cops come in and they’re shining the torches and everything… I give this lady a New World bag in case they come out so she could stick ’em in her bag, but they never come out,” he said.

He offered an easier way to catch penguins for the impatient. “You shoulda just got the fire department here and hosed them out. They won’t drown ‘cos they’re bloody penguins,” he said.

But Scratch, who had stopped by on his way to work, thought the penguins were a brilliant addition to the cityscape. “They’re great things aren’t they… What a great place Wellington is becoming, kākā flying over, tūī flying past you and now penguins walking up the streets,” Scratch said.

Mr Ashe said while the birds’ conservation status was at-risk and declining, their return around the harbour was proof of the volunteers’ efforts in pest trapping.

“We’re seeing this real re-wilding of our urban spaces and it’s just lovely, because these birds and animals were here before us and now they’re coming back. We’re just learning new ways to live with them,” he said.

On the other hand, there was more the could be done for the safety of kororā – which cross busy roads twice a day to reach the shelter of a bush, Mr Ashe said.

“Ōamaru has a really interesting penguin area and they’ve actually created special culverts that go under the roads for penguins to cross safely under roads… if we think really carefully around how we live with penguins and build infrastructure that’s compatible with them, we can have both: we can have our roads and our penguins,” Mr Ashe said.

However, the Wellington City Council said such roads were probably too expensive and disruptive to install.

“The installation of penguin nest boxes and penguin nest-friendly planting all around the coast aims to try to entice the penguins to stay on the seaward side of the road,” a Wellington City Council spokesperson said. “As part of the recent Worser Bay Yacht Club project we have installed a pipe to allow access to a fenced nesting site. The Niwa site at Greta Point has similar pipes under a pathway.

“Unfortunately, the cost of installing penguin culverts under roads is probably too expensive and disruptive – especially given there’s a fairly low chance the penguins would find and use the culverts.”

In the meantime, Mr Ashe urged drivers to be careful at dawn, dusk and night on coastal roads; and for dog owners to keep their pooches under control.

Photo from RNZ

Report from RNZ by Hamish Cardwell – July 15
Little blue penguins have been removed from under a sushi bar in front of the Wellington railway station – for a second time. They were first spotted at dawn outside the station and took shelter under the nearby shop, Sushi Bi.

Photo from RNZ

Police said the “waddling vagrants were removed from their sushi stand refuge earlier today by Constable John Zhu” after being told they were there about 6.30am. The pair were temporarily detained by the police before being released back into Wellington Harbour,

However, the owners of the shop tonight said the birds had again crossed busy traffic lanes between the harbour and the station to the sushi bar.

The Department of Conservation was called in and removed the small birds for a second time this evening. DOC said they were monitoring the site as this breed of penguin would likely try to return to the site again and again, despite being moved on.

On Saturday evening a little blue penguin was found close by on Featherston Street, and was also returned to the sea.

DOC Wellington operations manager Jack Mace said the birds were quite common in Wellington harbour, but it was the first time he had heard of them making themselves at home at the station. He said at this time of year the penguins were pairing up and looking for sites where they could lay eggs, although fortunately they do not lay eggs until later in the winter in Wellington. Mr Mace said people should keep their distance from the penguins, which could have a nasty bite.

Wini Morris works at the sushi shop where the penguins hid. She said she heard them making a cooing, humming sound, and that the birds likely hid near the grills beneath the shop – where it was nice and warm.

“It’s pretty insane the idea that some penguins are camping out under your shop. But it’s adorable I think – they’re probably terrified but it’s adorable.”

The little blue penguins’ conservation status is considered to be “at risk” to “declining”.

DOC volunteer Mike Rumble, who helped remove the penguins the second time, said it was wishful thinking to hope they might stay in the nesting box they were placed in on the waterfront.

“It’s a natural characteristic of the penguins – they will always return to where they possibly were nesting. That’s why here, tonight, even though this is a good 200m-300m away, I wouldn’t be surprised if the owner of the sushi bar says ‘they’re back’.


  1. Jane C, 16. July 2019, 8:23

    They might well have been looking for a safer place with fish in an urban city to lay eggs as they do in late winter . The daffodils flowering now that are connected to nature don’t lie.The fact of at risk penguins at Shelly Bay is a good enough reason to stop the development of their dwindling habitat.

  2. Wendy, 16. July 2019, 11:14

    I do hope the little blue penguin found in Featherston Street on Sat night was the one I saw rush across Featherston Street and almost get hit by a car.
    I was really upset and rang DOC who were amazing. Their ranger contacted me and said he would go looking for it. Great service and dedication which deserves recognition.

  3. Steve Doole, 17. July 2019, 0:09

    Are these the same type of penguins that for decades have nested between rocks of a marina at Melbourne St Kilda?

  4. Ray Meers, 17. July 2019, 11:07

    Normally we’d be seeing loads of Penguins on the shelves at the WCC library this time of year, but it’s been closed. I guess the Penguins are as confused as homo-sapiens about what Wellington buildings are safe and what aren’t.