Vultures, nature’s eternal scavengers, prowl the outskirts of rockhopper penguin colonies on the rocky cliff sides of the Falkland Islands, looking for vulnerable live chicks to feed on.

But, although they may not look the part, the brave male penguins, who are on dad-duty while the female penguins go fishing, know how to fight back.

Their attempts to scare off the vultures can leave the chicks exposed, but just in time, it’s mom to the rescue.

The female penguins come hopping (unlike their Emperor penguin cousins in Antarctica, rockhoppers don’t waddle) in a large group to push the vultures away.

Easily identified by the spiky black and yellow crown of feathers that jut out from the sides of their heads, and their creepy blood-red eyes, rockhopper penguins can gather in colonies numbering in the hundreds of thousands during mating season.

Their audacious behavior is even more surprising given that they are among the world’s smallest penguins, standing at only 20 inches tall.

Nevertheless, rockhoppers are known for aggressively defending their eggs, which both parents take turns incubating.

Despite their sometimes pugnacious temperament, southern rockhopper penguins living in the Falkland Islands are considered “charismatic” tourist attractions.

The Falklands are home to the majority of the southern rockhopper population (harder-to-find macaroni penguins, baleen whales, and dolphins can also be found around the Falklands).

Though rockhopper penguins are among the most numerous on the planet, overfishing and pollution have, according to National Geographic, cut their numbers by about 90%.


Next, read 25 fun penguin facts.

Elisabeth Sherman
Elisabeth Sherman
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey.
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