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These birds thrive at the head of landlocked Port Phillip Bay, which speaks well for the quality of metropolitan Melbourne's seawater. A breeding colony discovered on the St Kilda breakwater in 1974 is less well known than the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, but can be viewed on tourist boat trips.

The little penguin (Eudyptula minor), smallest of all penguin species, is the only one nocturnal on land. Never in the Antarctic, it is the only penguin resident in Australia's temperate waters and does not migrate. People relate to penguins because, like us, they walk upright, swim, form pair bonds, divorce, cannot fly and share in the care of young.

Little penguins usually breed in burrows dug in coastal sandy areas, with two eggs laid in early spring. Some pairs fledge young from two clutches, depending on how early the first clutch is laid and the availability of food (small fish and squid carried in the adult stomach and regurgitated straight into the chick's mouth). In late summer, adult penguins moult all their feathers. No longer waterproof, they stay ashore for three weeks, which diminishes the spectacle of their nightly return.

Pauline Reilly