The Jones house stands on the edge of the road in Wellington Harbour and just across the road is the beach. One evening Mrs Jones was startled to find a Fiordland Crested Penguin (75 cm high) standing asleep on her doorstep. Mindful of the traffic and the fact that penguins can bite, she quickly put a bucket over the birds head and took it to the penguin sanctuary.
This type of penguin is seldom found so far north, so everyone was very excited and curious.
The vet came, pronounced it fit and healthy. After the bird was banded, it was released on a southern beach 35 km from Wellington, from where hopefully it would find it's way back to home territory.
The travelling cage was opened and we all waited for the moment for the penguin to return to sea. The penguin wouldn't move. The cage was dismantled around it, and it stood looking dolefully at the pieces stacked up on the sand. Then it proceeded to sit on the top of them and settle down for a sleep. Because the penguin was reluctant to enter the water, he was taken back home for the night.
Early the next morning as the sun rose, the trip to the beach was made once again, and after some difficulty the Fiordland was persuaded to choose the wild blue yonder.
Two days later Mrs Jones' neighbour reported a Fiordland Crested Penguin asleep in the culvert near her house. An agile young helper crawled through the pipe to coax the bird out - and lo and behold if it wasn't the same penguin, recognisable by his band!
We think he chose Mrs Jones Neighbours' house to avoid getting another bucket on his head.
Because of his perseverance and exceptional navigational skills he was christened 'Columbus.' He had travelled over 85 kilometres in less than 24 hours.
It was now discovered that the penguin had started the moult which explained his earlier preference for Terra Firma.
For the three weeks it took to grow new feathers, he was the guest at the wild birds hospital consuming 2.5 kg of fish each day and becoming very tolerant of his human benefactors.
Columbus was released fit and well in his home waters off the South Island of New Zealand after a short plane journey away from the coastal waters of the North Island.
Last updated: August 18, 1996.
This page is maintained by Luke McCrohon.
Copyright © 1996 - Charlie Lear
Wellington, New Zealand