Fairy Penguins Take the Bronx Zoo by Storm

Julie Larsen Maher
Julie Larsen Maher / Julie Larsen Maher

Fairy penguins, also known as little penguins, are the smallest birds in the penguin family. They only grow to be about 13 inches tall and weigh two to three pounds. If you're a New Yorker—or planning a visit—and have a strong desire to see these impossibly small birds in real life (as I do), you're in luck. Fairy penguins will now be on exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, making it one of only four facilities in the United States to house them. The cute little guys were hatched at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia and brought to the Bronx as part of a breeding program.

“International partnerships and breeding programs like that of the little penguin are vital to ensuring the survival of the species in the wild through education, awareness, and connecting people to nature in a way that can only be accomplished through close, in-person encounters,” explains Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and General Director of the WCS Zoos and Aquarium. So far, Breheny notes, the fairy penguins “are acclimating well to their new home and are quite a sight to see.” 

In the wild, you can find little penguins feasting on fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans off the coast of New Zealand and Australia. They fall into the "least concern" category on the UCN Red List, but they're still threatened by humans and climate change. The Bronx Zoo also supports Taronga Zoo's conservation programs in Sydney Harbor, which include monitoring, awareness campaigns, rescue and rehabilitation, and breeding programs.