Up until recently it was believed that there was one species of rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome). Within the species there had been three subspecies; the southern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome), the northern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome moseleyi) and the eastern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome filholi).
Take a look at this map to see the different areas where each lives. (Click to enlarge.)
Research looking at morphological, vocal, and genetic differences concluded that the northern rockhopper is a unique species (Eudyptes moseleyi), while the eastern rockhopper remains a subspecies of the southern rockhopper.
The main way to physically tell a southern and a northern rockhopper apart is to look at body size and length of the crest feathers.
Take a look at these photos and see if you can tell the difference between the northern, southern, and eastern rockhoppers.
Southern rockhopper penguin
Northern rockhopper penguin
Eastern rockhopper penguin
Photo credit: Heather Urquhart
Southern rockhoppers are smaller and have shorter spiky crests (top picture above), while the northern rockhoppers are larger and have longer crest feathers (middle picture). The difference between the eastern and southern rockhoppers is very slight. The easterns have short crest like the southerns but they have a fleshy area at the gape of their beak (last photo above).
There is also a difference in the patterns under their wings. The two top pictures are southern rockhoppers, while the pair of pictures below are from northern rockhoppers.
Southern rockhopper wings
Northern rockhopper penguins
The next time you are at the Aquarium see if you can spot the differences between our two rockhopper species.
Bookmark and Share
Sort Posts by Subject
2011 South Africa Expedition
Little blue penguins
2008 Chile Rockhopper Expedition
- ► 2014 (20)
- ► 2013 (11)
- ► 2011 (29)
- FAQ: What are those black dots?
- Northern vs. Southern Rockhoppers
- Penguin Pals: Sea Cat
- FAQ: How do the rocks float?
- Penguin Pals: Robben II
- Breeding: A Romantic Getaway
- Many People Ask: PENGUINS vs. PUFFINS!
- Many People Ask: Can penguins fly?
- Playing Match Maker
- Penguin Pals: Eudyptes II and Chrysocome II
- The Penguin Parade at Phillip Island Nature Park i...
- FAQ: Do penguins have knees?
- What's Happening: Molting - The Homestretch
- What's Happening: Molting
- Penguin Pals: Lion
- ▼ July (15)
The Aquarium is home to more than 80 penguins who live in a bustling colony found on Level 1 surrounding the Giant Ocean Tank. The Aquarium breeds African penguins as part of a Species Survival Plan and promotes education programs about penguins around the world.
Come see what's happening