Tiny but mighty

Kororā (little penguins) are the world’s smallest penguin species – individuals stand at just over 25cm and weigh around 1kg!

For comparison, the emperor penguin is the largest penguin, standing up to 1.2m tall and weighing around 45kg. 

Feathered friends

With over 10,000 feathers, three to four times the feather density of flighted birds, keeping them waterproof is a busy job. Kororā have an oil producing gland that helps to make their feathers waterproof.

Air is trapped in the downy feather bases which provides insulation when swimming. Stiff feather tips, prevent the feathers being compressed and stops the insulated air from escaping.

As feathers are essential to keep the penguins warm, once a year kororā will come ashore to molt (shed their feathers and grow new ones). This can be any time between November and March. The process can take up to two weeks. And if you see a penguin during this time, you will think they are having a bad hair day. Their old feathers will look extremely scruffy as the new ones grow underneath and push the old ones out. While this process takes place, penguins cannot go swimming and therefore do not eat. To ensure their survival, it is normal for penguins to bulk up and store fat prior to molting beginning.

A day out fishing

Kororā in the wild spend their days alone feeding at sea, congregating in small groups or ‘rafts’ offshore. They will return as a group to resting areas at dusk.

At home at the beach

Adult birds come ashore between May and June to prepare nests. They may waddle up to 1.5km from the sea and climb up to 300m to find the perfect nest site. Nests can be in underground burrows and natural holes. But it is also quite common to find them nesting under buildings, such as beach houses. 

At the Zoo

You can find kororā in our Takutai (The Coast) habitat on the Te Wao Nui track at Auckland Zoo. Takutai represents New Zealand’s iconic 15,000km coastal habitat. Many of these individuals arrived at the Zoo as rescues after being treated at our vet hospital with injuries sustained in the wild. Some of these injuries mean the penguins would not survive in the wild, but they’re able to live fulfilling lives at Auckland Zoo. So don’t be surprised if you see some with a missing flipper!

In 2022, Tamāroa hatched at the Zoo and was reared by our dedicated team of keepers as part of our efforts to create a sustainable population of little penguins at Auckland Zoo.


Rearing a kororā (little penguin) chick

Follow our bird keepers as they explain the decision to step in and rear this chick, and the process from hatching, to successfully rearing and re-introducing Tamāroa to the kororā colony.

Can’t see any penguins in the habitat?

Here are some tips to look out for them:

  • Could they be swimming? – The little penguins could be swimming in the salt water pool. They can hold their breath for up to 2 minutes so remember to take you time.
  • Did you check under the boat? If it is sunny, the boat provides the little penguins with shade.
  • Quiet in the back? The little penguins often use the ramp at the back of the pool or are on the beach at the back of the habitat.
  • Is it nesting season? We provide the little penguins with nest boxes. During breeding season, they will spend most of their time in there.

Something fishy

Their diet in the wild includes varying proportions of small shoaling fish, squid and crustacean species. We replicate this fishy diet but mainly feed them sprats! Feeding can happen in the pool to encourage natural feeding behaviours, but also on the beach to ensure each penguin is getting enough food.


Meet our fast little swimmers!

Kororā may be the smallest penguin in the world but they can make a lot of noise!

In the Wild

Origin: Native to New Zealand and Australia

Habitat: Kororā are found around all coasts of New Zealand’s mainland and many of the surrounding islands.

Conservation status: At Risk (Declining)


Ōhope and Tio join our little penguin colony

These two precious penguins have now joined our little penguin colony and have been busy exploring their new home, including splashing around in the pool.

How we’re helping

Many of the little penguins at Auckland Zoo were admitted to our Veterinary Hospital after sustaining injuries in the wild. Our expert vet team helped them to recover, but those with permanent injuries could not be released. These penguins are now at home in Takutai (The Coast) habitat on the Te Wao Nui track.

How you can help

  • If you see penguins, make sure you give them space
  • Keep your dogs on a lead in known penguin areas
  • If you are heading out on a boat, keep an eye out for swimming penguins