Police described the little blue penguins as “waddling vagrants” after they were attracted by the smell of fish in the food truck at Wellington’s busiest train station.
The outlet’s co-owner joked he had no idea that word of his tasty raw fish had reached as far as the sub-aquatic community.
But Jack Mace, an operations manager for the Department of Conservation, said the birds would have simply thought they had found a snug burrow and were probably incurious about the sushi being sold above them.
“They were within penguin commuting distance of the harbour, and they thought they’d found a nice spot,” he said.
Police received the first call about a penguin on the loose in the city on Saturday after someone reported seeing a “grumpy bird” under a parked car.
Officers said they managed to release it back into the ocean.
However, they received more calls on Monday and found two penguins huddled under the Sushi Bi shop.
“The waddling vagrants were removed from their sushi stand refuge earlier today by Constable John Zhu,” police wrote on their Facebook page.
“Unsurprisingly, this was not the first report police had received about the fishy birds.”
But the persistent penguins returned to the spot within hours.
Co-owner Long Lin said he was tidying up the storage room when he heard a sound from near the water tank, initially believing it was a pigeon when he peered underneath the stand.
He said: “And then I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s a penguin’.
“I was panicked. I didn’t know what to do.”
As he called authorities, the unexpected non-paying customers waddled out, so he grabbed them one-by-one and placed them inside his shop.
He said the second penguin pecked at him several times, leaving red welts on his chest.
“It was a bit wild”, he said.
Worker Shawnee Kim said the birds strutted about without a care, and refused her offering of fresh salmon.
Rangers extracted the birds from under the store’s freezer and put them in a special nesting box at the harbour, about 660ft (201m) from the store, Mr Mace said.
The penguins have not been seen since and may be out to sea.
Mr Mace added that the population of little blue penguins had rebounded in Wellington due to the efforts of people removing predators from three islands in the harbour and have helped with conservation efforts, like building artificial nest boxes.
Little blue penguins, which grow to an average of 33cm (13in) in height and 43cm (17in) in length, typically start looking for nesting sports in July and start laying eggs in August.