Little Penguin Protection

We are fortunate to have the only remaining Little Penguin breeding colony on the NSW mainland in our own backyard – Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Every May, penguins come ashore around Manly Point and North Head to breed and raise their young. They inhabit these areas through to the following March.

The Little Penguin education film highlights the threats faced by the colony at Spring Cove including boat strike, dogs, and damage to important foraging habitat such as seagrass beds. Importantly, there are things we can all do to protect the Little Penguin population and ensure they have a future at Manly.

Little Penguin’s under threat

Manly’s Little Penguin colony is listed as an endangered population under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and are protected by law, meaning there are limits on certain activities within their declared habitat area.

In December 2002 critical habitat was declared (now known as Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value). This provides greater protection for the little penguins through stricter controls of activities in areas where they build their nests, raise their young, feed and moult.

However there is still work to do, as the colony continues to be threatened by boat strikes, fishing lines and hooks, rubbish, habitat disturbance, and predators such as foxes, dogs and cats.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment regularly monitors the status of the penguin colony. At last count, the colony was estimated at 29 breeding pairs (2022-23 breeding season).

Protecting the Little Penguins

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group, in partnership with Transport for NSW (Maritime), Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), launched its Little Penguin education video (above), which aims to improve education of the boating community around protections in place at Spring Cove in Sydney Harbour.

Sydney Coastal Councils Group urges all small recreational watercraft operators to follow the boating rules in Spring Cove, Manly, designed to protect this critically endangered population of Little Penguins.

Unfortunately Little Penguins are also being injured and killed by dogs and foxes as previously reported. In June 2015, 26 Little Penguins were killed in North Head, by what is believed to be a single fox – a massive loss in a small population.

If you are near a Little Penguin colony, you can help protect these native seabirds by following these simple rules:

  • Reduce speed to four knots or below when entering North Harbour, Manly
  • Be extra careful at dawn and dusk
  • Don’t anchor in seagrass beds
  • Don’t bring dogs or cats onto beaches

Watch out, penguins about!

While the best place to see a Little Penguin in Sydney is at a zoo or aquarium, they can also sometimes be spotted foraging in the harbour, or gathering just offshore in groups (or ‘rafts’) waiting to come onto land during the breeding season. You can help the Northern Beaches Council to map their critical habitats below.

If you spot a penguin in the harbour or anywhere else within the Northern Beaches, please submit the sighting details here.

Media Releases

Find out more

For further information about Manly’s endangered penguin population, please see the NSW Department of Environment & Heritage’s website.

What’s being done to help Manly’s Little Penguin population?