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The world's smallest penguins living under a Paekākāriki home

Bride and Graham Coe share their home with some unusual housemates; they're smelly, a bit noisy, and make quite an entrance - and are both penguins.

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Residents say they love living with some of natures noisiest neighbours.

The little blue penguins' nest is under the floorboards right under the Coes' kitchen table, and Bride says they are very noisy, and sound more like braying donkeys than birds.

She told RNZ's Afternoons about her experiences living with the little blues, saying they don't particularly like her music choices, and make their views well known.

"I disturb them when I play my old music, my old rock 'n' roll, my blues, my Rolling Stones, they get very upset."

The Coes live in Ames Street, Paekākāriki, above the beach, and every night the kororā come home to nest under their floorboards.

"We've been here since the late '70s, and they've been here long before us. We have two, but just about every house around us has at least one pair on their section, so we probably have another pair on the section," Bride says.

"One has to warn people coming to the house, firstly about the smell but then also about the noise, because if anybody stays overnight they think we're murdering people under the floorboards. And they bang on the floorboards as well as make that racket, they're loud."

She says sharing a house with penguins doesn't have much impact, as they have both grown used to the noise, but the smell is still difficult to bear.

"It can be overwhelming at times, but mostly on the lead-up to Christmas. They're here all year round, but from October there's one at home all the time as they nest, and then when the babies hatch out they leave usually on Christmas Eve - I've kept a record for about four years.

"While the babies are here the smell can be something else. It smells of very putrid fish, because the parents regurgitate food for the young, and they don't have a toilet under there obviously, so it makes a terrible stink."

A penguin living under a house in Paekākāriki. Source: rnz.co.nz/Kapiti Coast Biodiversity Project

The couple keep in touch with local conservation groups, who have given them rat and mustelid traps for the property.

"They monitor along here with a dog that can detect penguins, so they know exactly how many are along this coastline really.

"We're just in a protection role, they own the house more than us. There are people who think they would like to be rid of them, but they were here long before us and they need to be looked after."

The couple have joked about putting a viewing window through their floor so they can watch the penguins.

"We don't see them, they go out in the dark and come back in the dark, so it's very very rare that we ever see them.

"I put sand traps out - you put some sand down and smooth it over, and then I can see the footprints in the morning of who's been and gone and which way they've gone, and how many."

The penguins have been given other places to build their nests, but keep returning to Bride and Graham's house each year.

"We have penguin boxes around the section, they are not interested. They don't want penguin boxes, they've got a perfectly warm lovely house with a nice roof, why would they want a little wee penguin house?" Bride laughs.

She hopes New Zealanders are aware of how precious and vulnerable kororā are, and that they will do what they can to take care of them.

A key step is for everyone using the Paekākāriki beach to do a little better at always keeping their dogs on a leash so they don't disturb the penguins.

"Everybody thinks their dog's okay, and I've had dogs, but every now and again they revert to being wild animals", she says.

RNZ listener Amanda, who also lives in Ames Street in Paekākāriki, texted in to add her experiences too:

"You better believe the racket and pong the little blues make! The penguins make holes in insulation and plastic plumbing - they're super feisty and stubborn.

"They take no prisoners - they'll bail up dogs twice their size - and they can jump. I was always amused to see their footprints on the steep steps up from the beach.

"Many have tried to build plush nests outside the house, but they know what they prefer. Can't live with em, can't move 'em on!"

rnz.co.nz