Little blue penguins enjoy bumper breeding season in Otago

Tourist growth at Dunedin's royal albatross colony is helping create another success story on Otago Peninsula.

The giant seabirds are neighbours to a few hundred breeding pairs of little blue penguins - and that little colony is growing big.

They're the world's smallest penguin and every night tourists wait until dusk to watch them scurrying back up the cliff after a day at sea.

The birds need to keep themselves well fed. There's a lot of breeding going on at the Pilots Beach colony.

"This season we had our first eggs at the end of July, and it wasn't just a few, it was lots," research scientist Hiltrun Ratz told Newshub.

More than 130 chicks have hatched this season, making the little blues the most productive seabird on the planet.

Females can lay a second set of eggs in the same season, after their first chicks have left the nest.

"The little penguin can produce eight chicks in two years, when the albatross has produced one," Ms Ratz says.

"So the most and the least productive seabirds are living here right next to each other."

But with predators like stoats or ferrets able to clean out a little penguin colony in a few nights, there's been a lot of work here to protect the reserve.

To help measure their success, workers have been fitting the birds with tiny electronic tags.

They've microchipped more than 1000 little penguins at the Pukekura colony, allowing the team to track the lives of the birds.

The Peninsula reserve hass been a conservation success story. Forty years ago, there were no nests here.  Now there are more than 200 burrows.

Money raised from tours helps preserve and protect Pilots Beach, creating a safe colony for the little blues.

"So this is a huge win-win, both for the penguins and the visitors," Otago Peninsula Trust marketing manager Sophie Barker told Newshub.

It's money which ensures these southern seabirds will continue to flourish.