In 2010 the total number of yellow-eyed penguins was between 1464 and 1704 pairs (Department of Conservation).
There are about 427 breeding pairs on the South Island and another reasonable population on the Auckland Islands of 520 to 570.
Mel Young of DOC stated at a recent Yellow-eyed Penguin Symposium that:
“Anything between 450 and 500 breeding pairs (on Otago’s coastline) is great. It maintains the breeding numbers we’ve had over the last 30 years”.
So, how do we know how many pairs there are?
Nest searches are conducted each year. With a nest defined as a nest bowl with eggs or chicks present, they look for signs of penguins such as scratch marks, faeces and footprints along the coast. Searchers also use their noses as penguins can be easily smelt!