Rockhopper Penguin

Scientific Name: Eudyptes chrysocome

Penguins Do “Fly”

If you watch a group of Rockhopper penguins move, it’s easy to see why these birds are called “Rockhoppers.” Quite simply, they hop from rock to rock bouncing along on both feet. When walking gets tricky, they use their sharp beaks and nails to hold onto grooves in the rock. Like all penguins, they do not fly—at least not in the air. Using their flipper-like wings to propel them through water, penguins engage in what can only be called underwater flying. As they swim, their legs extend fully backward and they use their feet and small, stiff tail for steering.

Feeding Frenzy

Rockhopper colonies are found on the islands of the subantarctic region. Around these islands, the penguins find all of their favorite foods like krill, squid and other crustaceans. Penguins in the wild feed exclusively in the water. At Riverbanks Zoo the keepers encourage this natural behavior. At 11:00am and 3:30pm daily, handfuls of fish such as smelt and minnows are tossed into the 50-degree water, and the feeding frenzy begins. Penguins will dart and dash after their food, catching it up as they would in the wild.

Penguin Plumage

Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere and spend a great deal of time in the chilly waters. They are well suited to this environment. The entire surface of their bodies is covered with densely packed feathers. The feathers are coated with oils secreted from a gland at the base of their tails and spread across the feathers with their beaks. This almost unbroken glossy surface is impenetrable to water and also provides great insulation. Between the highly weatherproofed plumage and layer of fat there is a mantle of warmed air that also helps keep them warm. Without all this protection, the penguins would absorb water just like a sponge and quickly sink to the bottom of the sea.

Playing Penguin

The Penguin Coast exhibit in the Birdhouse at Riverbanks is equipped with everything a penguin could need—rocks to hop on, chilly waters, waves to ride and even ready-made nest boxes. You can even pretend to be a penguin and hop over the rocks near the exhibit.

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