Jervis Bay is blessed with a spectacular abundance of wildlife. This region sees fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, a variety of sharks, and so much more. At Jervis Bay Wild, we offer several different eco cruises: tours designed to bring guests close to our local marine life in their natural habitat and to enjoy the scenic beauty of the area. One of the most interesting (and admittedly, most adorable) of these wildlife species is the fairy penguin. Although we do not have a dedicated fairy penguin tour, on many of our eco-cruises, guests are delighted by a sighting of these swift little swimmers in the water.
Fairy Penguins in the Bay
At the entrance to Jervis Bay lies Bowen Island, a small sandstone island of only about 1 km long and ½ km wide. Located within Booderee National Park, Bowen Island is home to the nesting colonies of several different seabird species, such as Shearwater, the Sooty Oystercatcher, and the Fairy Penguin. Fairy penguins have a massive colony on the island and number about 10,000 penguins in all.
Who are These Little Guys?
Growing to approximately 33 cm in height and weighing only 1.5 kg, fairy penguins (more commonly referred to as little penguins) are the smallest penguin species in existence. They are found only along the coastlines of Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Chile. A typical day for the fairy penguin involves rising around dawn, leaving the nest, and heading out to the water. The penguin spends most of its day in the ocean, swimming and searching for food. At dusk, the penguin will return to shore and head back to its nest. While the fairy penguin can dive as deep as 20 m for nearly a minute, the majority of dives are much shallower and briefer. Fairy penguins feast upon small fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods, such as krill, sardines, anchovy, and squid. When looking for food, the fairy penguin doesn’t head too far out from shore, only venturing roughly 25 m into the sea.
Fairy penguins start mating when they are 2-3 years old, and when they find a partner, they mate for life. During breeding season, the female lays two eggs over a period of several days. The eggs take 35 days to hatch. Once born, the chicks are taken care of by their parents, who forage together and bring them food for approximately six weeks. By eight weeks of age, the young fairy penguins have grown to their adult size and are ready to be independent.
Where Else Can I See Fairy Penguins?
Since Bowen Island is kept as a protected seabird habitat, no public access is allowed. However, for those Jervis Bay visitors who do wish to catch a glimpse of the fairy penguins, there is one option. Murray’s Beach, located within Booderee National Park, is within short sight of Bowen Island. If you don’t spot any penguins while on your cruise with Jervis Bay Wild, you can enjoy a day on the white sandy beach, where you are quite likely to see fairy penguins swimming and playing in the ocean waters.