Royal Penguin Eudyptes schlegeli


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a large population which is currently thought to be stable, it is confined to just three islands all in close proximity and as such it is susceptible to the effects of human activities or stochastic events. However there are currently no obvious threats that could result in the species qualifying for Critically Endangered in a short time period. The species is therefore classified as Near Threatened as it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criterion D2.

Population justification
The species was heavily exploited in the 19th century, but has recovered and, in 1984-1985, an estimated 850,000 pairs were breeding on Macquarie, with an earlier count of over 1,000 pairs on Bishop and Clerk (Garnett and Crowley 2000). The population is believed to be stable.

Trend justification
The population is thought to be stable, although there is no quantitative analysis to support this (Garnett and Crowley 2000, Garnett et al. 2011, R. Gales in litt. 2012).

Distribution and population

This species is confined to Macquarie Island and nearby Bishop and Clerk Islands, Australia. However, small numbers of similar-looking birds appear at other sub-Antarctic islands (such as South Georgia and Kerguelen Island [Duriez and Delord 2012]), indicating that it may breed elsewhere. 


It nests in huge colonies on bare, level, pebbly, rocky or sandy ground. When breeding, it feeds on euphausiids, fish and squid. Its ecology and movements during the winter when away from the island are unknown (Christidis and Boles 1994).


Climate change and disease were recently identified as the only current threats to the species (Trathan et al. 2015). The effect of climate change on food supply is the most likely long-term threat, and while disease outbreaks may represent another potential threat to the species (R. Gales in litt. 2012), this is considered unlikely given no historic precedent for considerable mortality from disease outbreaks and good biosecurity on the island. Oil spills could potentially occur in the species range, and other forms of marine pollution, particularly ingestion of plastics, may contribute to mortality, but the impacts are regarded as negligible (Trathan et al. 2015). Human disturbance from recreational and work-related activities are not thought to cause significant declines. Rats, rabbits and cats were eradicated in 2014 as part of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (Parks and Wildlife Service 2014).

Fishing around sub-Antarctic islands may also adversely affect the species, however during the breeding season the species forages in waters near Macquarie Island and in the Exclusive Economic Zone where fishing is strictly regulated (S. Garnett in litt. 2011). The only operating fishery in the waters around Macquarie Island is a Patagonian Toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides longline fishery which is highly regulated and for which no penguin bycatch has been reported (Crawford et al. 2017, Daley et al. 2007, Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2018). There is a potential interaction with other fisheries outside of the breeding season when the species disperses, however the population is assessed as stable and Trathan et al. (2015) assigned the threat level from both bycatch and fisheries competition as zero.

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway

In Australia the species has been evaluated as Near Threatened. Studies of foraging ecology and breeding biology have been completed. Monitoring of breeding population size and success is ongoing, including a planned population survey in 2016/2017. Feral cats were eradicated from Macquarie Island in 2001, and rodents and rabbits were eradicated in 2014 as a result of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (Parks and Wildlife Service 2014). Tourists on breeding islands are managed to prevent disturbance.

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

Carry out surveys to obtain an up-to-date population estimate. Determine trends in numbers. Monitor rates and effects of marine debris ingestion. Monitor the effects of fishing. Establish demographic parameters, particularly survival of different age classes. Study the potential impacts of climate change. Implement a biosecurity plan for Macquarie Island (Parks and Wildlife Service 2014).


65-75 cm. Large, yellow-crested, black-and-white penguin. Black upperparts. White underparts. Pure white to pale grey cheeks from crest to throat. Long yellow, orange and black plumes project from forehead patch back along crown and droop behind eye. Similar spp. E. schlegeli and Macaroni Penguin E. chrysolophus are the only crested penguins with crests that meet on forehead. E. chrysolophus has jet-black to dark grey cheeks and throat, but light-faced birds are also reported at some sites.


Text account compilers
Martin, R., Ashpole, J, Moreno, R., Garnett, S., Stattersfield, A., Taylor, J., Trathan, P., McClellan, R., Pearmain, L.

Copson, G., Gales, R., Carmichael, N., Garcia Borboroglu , P., Alderman, R., Garnett, S., Trathan, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Eudyptes schlegeli. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/03/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/03/2021.