Native_LittlePenguinLittle Penguins

Manly is home to an endangered population of Little Penguins, which is the only mainland breeding colony of penguins left anywhere in NSW. 

Made up of only about 60 breeding pairs, this unique bird population is an icon of Manly, surviving in one of the most ubanised areas of Sydney. 

The main threats to the population include loss of suitable habitat, attack by dogs and foxes, and disturbance at or near nesting sites and foraging areas. Land clearing practices and development has greatly reduced the amount of native vegetation present. Adapting to their changing environment, a range of nest types are utlised by the penguins including under rocks on the foreshore, under seaside houses, garages, under stairs, in wood piles and under overhanging vegetation.

Other threats to Little Penguins include residential gardening activities (such as removing vegetation that exposes burrows or dumping vegetation or garden clippings), noise and light on the forshore or on the water (which can delay penguins returning to their burrows or abandon them all together) and pollution (rubbish can tangle, suffocate and injure Little Penguins).

 In order to provide greater protection to the Little Penguins and their habitat, Critical Habitat was declared by the NSW Government in December 2002. 

What is Critical Habitat?

Critical Habitat is an area that is critical to the survival of an endangered species, population or community. The declaration of Critical Habitat provides greater protection and stricter controls over particular activities within the defined area. 

Where is Critical Habitat?

There are two areas of critical habitat (pdf format Map of Little Penguin Critical Habitat in Manly (223.40 KB). Area A starts from west of Collins Beach and extends to the northern side of Cannae Point and includes Collins, Store and Quarantine Beaches to the northern side of Cannae Point. On the land, the critical habitat boundary includes ridgetop habitat where penguins currently nest and areas of potential nesting habitat. Area B extents from 11A Oyama Avenue around Manly Point to 26 Addison Road. The land side of the critical habitat boundary includes the area from the mean high watermark, up the rocky foreshore slope to the beginning of the ridgetop in residential areas (ie the rocky foreshore upslope to the boundary of the formed backyard is included as critical habitat, but the backyard and residential area is not included): 

Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 Section 118C – A person must not, by an act or an omission, do anything that causes damage to critical habitat. For the Little Penguins this means the following restrictions are in place: 

  • No companion animals (except assistance animals)
  • No fishing between sunset and sunrise during breeding season (start July to end Feb)
  • No tampering with or damaging Little Penguin nest boxes or burrows, air approaching within 5 metres of a penguin on land.
  • No anchoring or mooring a vessel in the Little Penguin critical habitat Area A between sunset and sunrise during the breeding season.
  • No vessel (other than a non-motorised tender) to enter or remain in the Little Penguin critical habitat Area A between sunset and sunrise during the breeding season.

Penguin Biology:

  • Little Penguins are almost completely blind out of the water
  • The feathers on a Little Penguin’s back are very dark blue (not black) for camouflage on the water surface
  • A mature Little Penguin weighs only 1 kg but can eat up to 500g fish in one day
  • Little Penguins are the smallest penguins in the world, growing to a maximum of 30cm tall
  • Little Penguins can travel up to 50km in a day whilst feeding
  • Little Penguins can dive up to 70m down, and can hold their breath for over a minute
  • One pair of penguins that nest under a house in Manly have to climb 100 stairs to reach it every night

Who can I contact?

For an injured, sick or dead penguin

Please refer to the attached pdf format Protocol for reporting injured or dead Little Penguins (55.33 KB)

  • National Parks - Harbour Area North 02 9960 6266
  • Taronga Zoo Wildlife Clinic 02 9978 4785 (during business hours only)
  • Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services 02 9413 4300 (after hours)

More information:

Further information can be obtained from the Natural Resources Branch, 02 9976 1500 as well as on the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) website

Downloads -  Threatened Species considerations for development applications  (7- Part Test & Species Impact Statements)

Nicholas Carlile Penguin Image Copyright