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Two rockhopper penguins sit together, shwon from the chest up. One has its head tucked into its stout body, the other has its beak lifted and is peering at the camera.

Rockhopper Penguin

Rockhopper penguins were named for their unique mode of locomotion. Unlike other penguin species, these 1½-foot-tall birds hop—almost bounce—from place to place, a useful adaptation to the rocky terrain of their windswept islands around South America's southern tip. They even hop into the water feet first.

A rockhopper penguin spreads its thin wings and peers expressively up at a camera above it.
A rockhopper penguin stands in a nook of the penguin habitat.

Colorful penguins

Rockhoppers stand out from the basic black-and-white penguin species with touches of hot color: red eyes, orange beaks and long chrome yellow crest feathers like wild eyebrows. During mating displays, the birds shake their heads rapidly to make the long yellow plumes whirl. Rockhoppers are fiercely territorial and given to noisy displays too. A breeding colony can be heard from miles away—not to mention through the inch-thick glass of Shedd’s penguin habitat.

Rockhopper penguins have short stumpy legs but can jump from rock to rock on shore quite easily.

Rock nesters

Using available materials, male rockhoppers carefully select and arrange small rocks in a circle to keep his mate's eggs from rolling away. A nice nest will attract a female or reinforce an existing pair bond. Hauling the rocks one by one in his beak, a male is not above stealing better-looking stones from his neighbors in the breeding colony. Rockhoppers return to the same nest year after year. Pairs usually raise only one chick, taking turns with incubating, brooding and feeding.

Other birds

Barred owl

Red-tailed hawk

Wood duck

Green araçari

Brazilian teal

Great horned owl