19 March 2021

Be on the lookout for our feathered friends as penguin moulting season begins

| Albert McKnight
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Rescued penguin

This little penguin was rescued by the WIRES Mid-South Coast branch. Photo: Zora Brown.

The rescue of a penguin spotted in trouble on the South Coast has prompted Wildlife Rescue (WIRES) to remind the community about moulting season.

Over the last couple of weeks WIRES Mid-South Coast branch has received several calls to rescue Little Penguins from places including Tomakin, Surf Beach and Lake Conjola.

One involved a rescue at Bawley Point with the caller explaining the penguin had come in on a wave but could not get up or walk and it looked exhausted.

Zora Brown from the Mid-South Coast branch picked up the penguin and took it to Australian Sea Bird Rescue South Coast.

The wildlife rescue personnel found its flippers were moulting and it was later transferred to Nowra to be with another penguin while it recovered before being released.

Information from the Australian Museum indicates Little Penguins are the smallest penguin species in the world reaching a maximum height of 40cm.

They are found widely across the south of Australia and can spend weeks at sea.

Little penguins, Montague Island Nature Reserve

A group of Little Penguins spotted at Montague Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Stuart Cohen/OEH.

A WIRES spokesperson said during moulting season, which lasts from February to April, the penguins lose their old feathers and it takes a couple of weeks before the new ones have grown.

During that time penguins have to stay on land until their feathers give them waterproof protection. Because they are unable to go to sea to feed they can lose up to half their body weight.

In moulting season the penguins are also vulnerable to predators and human interference with a WIRES spokesperson saying it was important that during moulting season dogs are kept on leashes when visiting coastal areas and people keep their distance from the birds.

The spokesperson said the penguins will look tattered and tired while they are moulting and if anyone is concerned about their safety or health they can contact a wildlife rescue organisation.

Do not approach or handle the penguin, but if possible stay and observe it until help arrives.

Call WIRES on 1300 094 737 or Australian Sea Bird Rescue South Coast on 0431 282 238 for advice.

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