A Little Penguin chick has hatched near Eden on the far south coast for the first time in more than 30 years.
The breeding colony disappeared from the Eagles Claw Nature Reserve area in 1993, and the successful hatching of this chick is the culmination of many years of hard work to create and restore nesting habitat.
It is believed the chick was a few days old, when it was sighted last week.
NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Senior Research Scientist Nicholas Carlile says, “we initially spotted a penguin pair in December 2022, when they took the first steps to developing a pair bond in a courting ritual.
“Remote cameras installed at the cove means we have been able to keep an eye on the loved-up pair over the last few months and have watched them collect materials to build a nest and eventually lay and tend to two eggs.
“We hope this newly hatched chick will be the first of many hatched in Eden and our dedicated team will continue to support the Little Penguins return to this very unique, very precious mainland breeding site,” Mr Carlile said.
The Department of Planning and Environment has been working with local citizen scientists, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Bega Valley Shire Council to remove weeds, protect the area from foxes and install artificial nesting burrows in the hopes of attracting breeding pairs.
It has also installed a solar powered ‘love-machine’, which is a sound attraction device that echoes Little Penguin mating calls across the cove and out into Twofold Bay each night to encourage them to visit and breed.
The Department of Planning and Environment and Bega Valley Shire Council will continue to monitor the penguin pair and their chick over the coming weeks.
Little Penguins were once more common on the Australian mainland, but their colonies are now generally restricted to offshore islands.
Until now, the only known mainland breeding colony in NSW was in a secluded cove in the Manly area of Sydney Harbour. This Sydney colony has been declared an endangered population.
Breeding in the Eagles Claw Nature Reserve had previously stopped due to years of fox and dog attacks on unprotected nest sites in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland said it’s great news for the region.
“A loved-up penguin pair was first spotted at Eden’s Eagles Claw Nature Reserve in December 2022 and it’s absolutely wonderful to hear that they not only nested and laid an egg, but also produced a little chick,” Dr Holland said.
“We are so pleased that this dedicated effort from local citizen scientists, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Council has paid off and we hope this little chick marks the start of a new generation of penguins at Eden.”
Images: The Department of Planning and Environment