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Hoiho – bird of the year

The conclusion of the bird a day challenge

So we have worked our way through the 23 most endangered species of native birds in New Zealand, and, as I discussed initially, I will then turn them into a 24-bird design, to echo the concept of an advent calendar – but here, we are documenting the advent of their extinction. 

​A bird a day #24 – winner of Bird of the Year 2019

​Choosing a 24th bird ended up being easy – I was concerned for a while that the winner might be a bird that I had already drawn, and I had no desire to start on the next section of the DOC list, as that would pretty much force me to keep going until I had finished them all. And birds are great, but I need a break.

Luckily for me, the winner of the 2019 Bird of the Year competition is the Hoiho (Yellow-eyed penguin). I haven’t drawn a penguin yet, so that’s an added bonus. 


Yellow-eyed penguin. Adult standing showing wing ‘flippers’. Otago Peninsula, January 2006. Image © Craig McKenzie by Craig McKenzie

Yellow-eyed penguin. Adult, surfing in to land on the beach. Katiki Point, Otago, June 2016. Image © Kathy Reid by Kathy Reid
One really important thing to mention is that, even though the Hoiho are not actually in any of the three lists on the DOC endangered species page, that’s actually an indicator of how very endangered the listed species are – because with a conservation status of “in serious trouble”, Yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) are disappearing before our eyes. They are one of the rarest penguins in the world with just 1,700 pairs remaining. 

If nothing is done to reverse current declines, scientists predict they could be extinct on mainland New Zealand within 10 – 20 years.
Bird of the Year


A tall, portly penguin with a pale yellow band of feathers that runs from each yellow eye around the nape, a long straight red-brown and pale cream bill, and pink and black feet. The rest of the head, neck and dorsal surface is slate blue; the breast and belly white down to the feet.
NZ Birds online

Yellow-eyed penguin. Adult head in profile showing yellow eye. Otago Peninsula, April 2011. Image © Jenny Atkins by Jenny Atkins

Yellow-eyed penguin. Front view of adult head. Catlins, Hinahina Forest, October 2006. Image © Cheryl Pullar by Cheryl Pullar

Yellow-eyed penguin. Adult moulting. Otago Peninsula, April 2011. Image © Jenny Atkins by Jenny Atkins

Yellow-eyed penguin. Adult pair showing dorsal surface of wing ‘flippers’. Ruapuke Island, Foveaux Strait, December 2012. Image © Colin Miskelly by Colin Miskelly

Drawing the hoiho

Very fast sketches of the underlying structure.
This chonky boi Hoiho is channeling Lizzo – all attitude and rocking that thicc body. Love it.
The Hoiho has a lot of its own colours – more than expected when you just look at it. The beak and the eyes are actually quite complex. I have, of course, simplified the lines and the colours to fit my style.
And that’s the lot! 24 birds, in slightly more than 24 business days. What a ride! What was your favourite?
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