Sunday, January 5, 2020

Little Penguin FAQ

Friends of Lillico Penguins: Frequently Asked Questions
Can also view this on the Wildcare Website: 
wildcaretas.org.au/wildcare-news/your-penguin-questions-answered



Ø Q: How many penguins do you have here?
A: Just around the platform, about 50. In the whole colony, about 3000.

Ø Q: Where do they go in the off-season?
A: Little Penguins spend 80% of their time out at sea. During winter, when they don’t have chicks to feed, they can spend up to a month at sea without returning to land.

Ø Q: How far do they swim per day?
A: During breeding season, they usually feed within 8-15km of the colony. During winter, they can travel up to 700km. They travel from 15 to 50 kilometres a day, but that includes diving up and down as they look for fish.

Ø Q: How long can they hold their breath?
A: Longest recorded dive 1 min 56 secs.

Ø Q: How deep do they dive?
A: On average they dive between 5 and 20 metres.
Deepest recorded dive 72 metres.

Ø Q: How fast can penguins swim?
A: On average they can swim 2-4km/hr but they have been recorded swimming at 6.4km/hr.

Ø Q: What do they eat?
A: Small fish (eg pilchards, anchovies), squid, small octopi, krill, seahorses.
They eat about 250g of food a day, which is a quarter of their body weight.

Ø Q: Do penguins need to drink fresh water?
A: No. They have a gland above their eyes which filters salt from seawater, leaving them with fresh water in their bodies.

Ø Q: How long do they live?
A: If they survive their first 2 years, then their average life span is 6-7 years. Oldest recorded on Phillip Island was 25 years 8 months.

Ø Q: Do they mate for life?
A: No. 18-50% divorce rate. However faithful pairs produce up to three times as many chicks as birds that don’t stay together.

Ø Q: How many eggs do they lay?
A: Two, a few days apart. They are about the same
size as hens’ eggs.

Ø Q: What is the incubation period?
A: Around 33 days.



Ø Q: Do both parents look after the chicks?
A: Yes. They share incubation and feeding.

Ø Q: How do you tell the difference between the sexes?
A: With difficulty, but by their beaks. Adult females have a thinner beak than males. Males have a distinct hook on the end of their beak.

Ø Q: How do they sleep at sea?
A: Whether at sea or on land, they lie on their bellies with their heads up. They have numerous ‘catnaps’ during the day and night, for only 4 minutes at a time. They only have 12 second periods of deep REM sleep (for humans, it’s 20 minutes).

Ø Q: Why do you use red torches and not white?
A: Deep red light is much gentler on the penguins’ eyes than white and doesn’t interfere with their night vision – although we still try to avoid shining the torch in their faces.

Ø Q: Do they prefer man-made or natural burrows?
A: They seem happy to use any suitable site that’s going – it’s easier for them to use the man-made burrows, but a lot do their own thing under the bushes and platform as well.

Ø Q: Do they return to the same nest each year?
A: We don’t think so. It seems to be first in, best accommodated.

Ø Q: Why do penguins moult and how long does it take?
A: Adult penguins moult and grow new feathers every year. They depend upon healthy feathers to keep them warm and waterproof while at sea. While moulting, the penguins lose their waterproofing, so they cannot go into the water. Moulting takes about 17 days, so in that time, the penguins cannot feed – they have to depend on body fat. Before they moult, they eat as much as possible, so that they almost double their body weight.

Ø Q: Do you do any research on the penguins at Lillico?
A: No, apart from keeping records of numbers seen each evening. We let Phillip Island do the research and we get updated information from them.

Ø Q: How did the freeze-dried penguin die?
A: No sign of trauma, so probably starvation.

Ø Q: What are the penguins’ main threats?
A: Humans are by far the greatest threat, either directly or indirectly. Gill nets. Oil spills. Plastics. Competition for food. Habitat loss. Direct disturbance by people. Road deaths. Uncontrolled dogs or cats (although the cats don’t seem to worry them too much). Foxes would be a disaster.
Natural predators: Sea Eagles, Swamp Harriers, Pacific Gulls, Seals, Sharks

Ø Q: If you find a sick or injured penguin, do you care for them? A: We try to keep interference to a minimum. However, if we think a bird can be saved, there is a dedicated Penguin Rehabilitation and Release facility in Burnie.

If you would like to learn more about Little Penguins, you might be interested in the Cradle Coast NRM Online Learning package.


























Print able PDF; CLICK HERE (Compiled 2017, Shirley Tongue)

Friday, January 3, 2020

Tourist Information for Platform

Viewing Little Penguins at Lillico Beach


The little penguin is found only in southern Australia and New Zealand. It is the smallest but noisiest of all penguins. Lillico Beach Conservation Area is the second-largest breeding colony on Tasmania’s ‘mainland’, with some 3,000 little penguins.


There is a carpark and viewing platform where visitors can watch some of these penguins at close quarters. Volunteer guides from the Friends of Lillico Penguins group are rostered at the viewing platform every evening during the summer breeding season (late September to early April). They are there to assist visitors and to minimize disturbance to the penguins. Friends of Lillico Penguins is a Wildcare group that works closely with the Parks and Wildlife Service to protect and manage the native habitat of the Lillico Beach Conservation Area.

Getting to and from the viewing platform


Lillico Beach is located between Leith and Don. The viewing platform is at the eastern end of Lillico Beach, at the foot of Don Hill. It is only accessible from the left hand, eastbound lane of the Bass Highway.

If approaching from the West, there is a small sign to the Lillico Beach Conservation Area 500m from the carpark (which is about 4km east of the Forth River).
If approaching from the East, you will need to overshoot the platform and make a U-turn at the Lillico Road turn-off.

When leaving the platform, all traffic must go east. If you want to go west, then you will need to make a U-turn at Waverley Road, just beyond the railway overpass. Please take extra care when re-entering the highway traffic, as it will be travelling at speeds up to 110kph.

Parking: Cars and small campervans should reverse park on an angle on the seaward side of the carpark. This prevents headlights from disturbing the penguins or other visitors. The spaces on the highway side of the carpark are for long vehicles such as buses and motor-homes.

For more information contact: Parks and Wildlife Service, Short Street, Ulverstone 6429 8719 or
Shirley Tongue, President, Friends of Lillico Penguins, 6427 7468, shirley.tongue@gmail.com

Important guidelines for visitors

Due to a rapid increase in visitors to the Lillico penguin viewing platform, it has become necessary to set an upper limit of 70 viewers on the platform at any one time. This is to maximize visitor experience while minimizing disturbance of the penguins. If the platform is already full when you arrive, please be patient and wait a few minutes until someone leaves before you enter. Thank you for your co-operation and understanding in this matter.


  • Monday to Thursday evenings are generally not as busy as Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • There are no facilities at the viewing platform; that is, no toilets (so go before you arrive!), no refreshments and no garbage bin (so please take any rubbish with you).
  • Aim to arrive just after sunset, as the penguins generally don’t
  • appear until it is getting dark.
  • Please note that access to the beach below the platform is closed between 6pm and 6am during the breeding season.
  • Wear warm, dark, comfortable clothing. It is often windy and chilly at the platform. Dark clothes are less noticeable to the penguins. No flashing children’s shoes, please!
  • When on the platform, please be calm and quiet; don’t run or jump and avoid any sudden movements or loud noises that might startle the birds – or annoy other visitors.
  • Please note that penguins are wild animals and that they scratch and bite. Do not try to touch them!
  • Torches: It is a Parks and Wildlife policy that only the guides are to use torches on the platform – and these are to be red light, only. This is to reduce disturbance of the
  • penguins and of other visitors.
  • You are welcome to bring binoculars if you wish.
  • NB No flash photography is allowed at the platform. This can have serious
  • consequences for the penguins, especially if they are feeding chicks. The guides have good quality photo prints available, taken at Lillico without flash. Photographs taken using red torchlight come out well when converted to greyscale.
  • No smoking on the platform, please.
  • Viewing is not advised during the ‘off-season’. Although there may be adult penguins visible occasionally, they are not present every night and the weather can be challenging. Also, there will be no chicks nor guides present.
  • Box for donations is provided. Although viewing is free, donations are always welcome and all funds received are spent on the conservation area.
  • Friends of Lillico Penguins is always looking for new volunteer guides. If this is something you would like to do, please give your contact details to one of the guides on duty and we will send you more information and an Expression of Interest form.
Printable PDF is HERE.