Penguin Island

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on May 31, 2009

Penguin Island near Perth offers a good day out. It is a 12.5 ha island only 700 metres from the town of Rockingham, a few minutes in the regular ferry. The waters surrounding the island make up the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. The marine park is home to bottlenose dolphins and rare Australian sea lions.

The island is home to the largest population of Little Penguins in Western Australia - the smallest species of penguin. This bird, which is about 43 cm (16 in) tall, lives on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand – some sightings have been made in Chile. Birds nesting on the mainland have declined because of predation by foxes and cats, and colonies are now largely confines to offshore islands. At sea they are vulnerable to hazards such as discarded plastics and fishing line, oil pollution and sharks.

People can walk to Penguin Island at low tide; though they might end swimming as unpredictable tide rises can be dangerous. The island contains a picnic area with seating but bring your own supply of food and drink as you cannot buy any when over. Waterless composting toilets are available.

Penguin Island has many geographical features, such as cliffs, sea caves, headlands, beaches, coves, notches, natural bridges and many wave-cut platforms. There are walk trails and boardwalks around the island to ensure the safety of the breeding areas of the nesting birds. Apart from the penguins, The island has one of the largest pelican rookeries in Australia, the curious kings skink and over 16 species of seabirds. It is also one of the few places you can spot a quokka, an animal about the size of a domestic cat. It’s also a popular place for swimming, snorkelling, diving and picnicking.

You can go penguin watching at the Penguin Experience Island Discovery Centre. Their birds come from rejection by the mothers as chicks or through injury. In the former case the centre rears them and in the latter case nurses them back to health. In nature these birds spend most daylight hours at sea feeding or hidden away in their burrows. To ensure that everyone can enjoy a penguin experience, the Department of Environment and Conservation host three daily penguin feeding shows at the Discovery Centre at 10.30am, 12.30 and 2.30pm.

Quite a bond has developed between the girl feeding them and the penguins. She knew the habits of each bird minutely. Some preferred the food to be thrown to them in the tank while others liked being hand fed. One bird for some strange reason actively disliked her and preferred being fed by someone else.

Little penguins usually live for 10 years but some survive for 20 years. About 15% of adults die each year. They begin breeding at the age of three or four. They are monogamous and remain faithful to their partner over successive years, though they will find another mate if their current one dies. They also display site fidelity to their nesting colonies and nesting sites over successive years.

During a two to three week period in December or January, new feathers grow and the old fall out. Penguins cannot go to sea during this period as their feathers must be watertight to survive at sea. While moulting they often stand in the open to cool and are vulnerable during this time.

They are fantastic swimmers. Little penguins can swim 8 km an hour and dive to 60 metres to catch pilchards, whitebait and other small fish. The wings of these flightless birds have evolved into flippers while their feathers form a waterproof insulating coat, which streamlines them in the water. Before coming ashore they assemble close by in small groups or 'rafts' before landing on the island an hour or so after sunset.

Just as well the Penguin Experience Island Discovery Centre is there for otherwise people would be wondering why this island holds the name Penguin Island as these little birds seldom appear being away at sea or hidden in their burrows.
Penguin Island
Mersey Point
Perth, Australia, 6169
+61 (0)8 9592 3464

© LP 2000-2009