While on a road trip up the Tasmanian East Coast, on our way to the Bay of Fire, we made a pit stop in Bicheno for the night. We were lucky to be in Tasmania for the mating season of the fairy penguins, in time to see the nightly penguins walk. Thankfully while in Bicheno, we managed to get in on the Bicheno Penguins Tour even if there were no more spots available. We are starting to get used to being on stand-by.
While the tour may appear expansive, as it’s a mere 5 minutes’ drive to the nesting site, it was all worth it in my opinion. The fairy penguins, or the little blue penguins as they are commonly called, stand between 20 and 30 cm. Their bellies are white and their back are a dark blue, almost black. It was quite a sight seeing them regroup and walk up the beach on their little wobbly legs (which have no knees).
(Photo Credits : Bicheno Penguins Tours)
This tour, in which we walked along a path in the dark, was guided by a knowledgeable guide who provided us with many anecdotes and facts. Notably, that the female penguins swim 40 kms out at sea to go fish for small fishes like sardines and anchovies. They then come back at night to feed the family. A female will lay two eggs at a time, the first to hatch being the dominant youngster. This position gives all sorts of privileges, like getting larger portions of food. The father’s task on the other hand is to protect the nest and regulate the body temperature of the youngling. A chick will stay in the nest for 10 weeks after which they would go on their own. If a female was to die, the male would try to go out at sea to provide for the family, thus being unable to take care of its other tasks, which reduces greatly the chances of survival of the little penguins. Once the mating season is over, they will all go back to sea and only to come back the next mating season.
This late night walk allowed us to see up close the females returning from the sea, their mates waiting for them and the chicks begging to be fed. There was really a sense of anticipation as we were waiting for the penguins to make their way up the beach on their wobbly legs. The children who were present really enjoyed the activity, as did the adults. Just a thought, but I would love to be able to come back here later with my future family.