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Dozens of little blue penguins have washed up dead on Whangarei's eastern beaches, the Department of Conservation (DOC) says.

Concerned locals have reported seeing dead penguins at Ocean Beach, Urquharts Bay, Langs Beach, Waipu and Mangawhai.

DOC ranger Bryce Lummis said the birds were likely to have succumbed to strong winds that swept the region two weeks ago.

"When the strong easterlies hit the penguins and they are weak, a lot of natural attrition occurs; this is a sad but common phenomenon for little blue penguins," he said.

"Some of the penguins are likely to be older birds coming in to die. Others are probably females who have been hit hard by the storm not long after having young... others are often just looking for somewhere to rest."

Mr Lummis said specimens had been sent to Massey University Veterinary Clinic to confirm the cause of death.

- NZPA