Friday, January 31, 2014

Climate change is 'killing Argentina's Magellanic penguin chicks'

Magellanic penguin chicks huddle together for warmth in Punta Tombo, Argentina
Penguin chicks in Argentina are dying as a direct consequence of climate change, according to new research. Drenching rainstorms and extreme heat are killing the young birds in significant numbers.
The study, conducted over 27 years, looked at climate impacts on the world's biggest colony of Magellanic penguins, which live on the arid Punta Tombo peninsula. The research has been published in the journal Plos One.
They are turning their nests into swimming pools and they really don't like to be wet”
                                                                          Prof Dee Boersma University of Washington

About 200,000 pairs of these penguins make their nests on the peninsula every year. They reside there, in desert-like conditions, from September until February to hatch their young. However, the life of a newborn chick is perilous, to say the least.

Downy death
They are too big for their parents to sit on top of and keep warm, but too young to have waterproof feathers.As a result, they are particularly vulnerable to rainstorms. If they get drenched they usually die, despite the attentions of their despairing parents. They can also succumb to extreme heat, as they cannot cool off in the water like the others.

The chicks are often too big for their parents to be able to keep them warm
The new analysis of data from Punta Tombo indicates that climate change is having an increasing impact on the chicks. While on average, around 40% of the youngsters that die every year succumb to starvation, changes in the climate killed an average of 7%. Warming 'killing penguin chicks' "Climate variability in the form of increased rainfall and temperature extremes, however, has increased in the last 50 years and kills many chicks in some years," the authors write in the report.

In two years it was the most common cause, accounting for half the dead chicks in one year, and 43% in another. "It's the first long-term study to show climate change having a major impact on chick survival and reproductive success," said lead author Prof Dee Boersma, from the University of Washington.

The number of storms at the breeding site in the first two weeks of December, when the chicks are less than 25 days old, has increased between 1983 and 2010.

Magellanic penguins

  • Found predominantly in Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands
  • Medium-sized birds that stand about 35cm tall and weigh around 5kg
  • Males of species have a distinct vocalisation - they bray like donkeys
  • More than 17 penguin species are recognised, all south of the equator
"Penguins live in the desert and what's really happening with these rain storms - they are turning their nests into swimming pools and they really don't like to be wet," said Prof Boersma.

Problems with ice
As well as more downpours, the researchers believe that altered fish behaviour is contributing to the rising numbers of deaths. Over the 27-year period, the penguin parents have arrived at the breeding site later and later in the year, probably because the fish they eat are arriving later too.

The scientists say that the later in the year that the eggs are hatched, the more likely it is the chicks will still be at the vulnerable, downy stage Warming 'killing penguin chicks'when the storms arrive in November and December. "The birds are coming back later and on average laying their eggs three days later than they did a decade ago, so they have a shorter breeding season and that cuts down the amount of time they have to raise their chicks," said Prof Boersma.

This year, though, the problem was heat, with several days over 30C.

In the longer term, the outlook for this species in the face of a changing climate is not good, say the researchers. "We're going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season as climatologists predict," said co-author, Dr Ginger Rebstock, also from the University of Washington.

Dead penguins  
The chicks' down isn't waterproof and they can succumb to extremes

In a separate study, also published in Plos One, researchers found that changes in sea-ice were having an impact on Adelie penguins in the Ross Sea area of Antarctica. The authors found that under normal conditions, the penguins were successful at finding food at relatively low sea-ice concentrations and should be able to cope with predicted future changes.

However, the researchers say that these penguins will have significant problems coping with infrequent, extreme environmental events such as the presence of giant icebergs. "Our work shows that Adelie penguins could cope with less sea-ice around their summer breeding grounds," said lead author Dr Amelie Lescroel from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). "However, we also showed that extreme environmental events, such as the calving of giant icebergs, can dramatically modify the relationship between Adelie penguins and sea ice. If the frequency of such extreme events increases, then it will become very hard to predict how penguin populations will buffer future sea ice changes."


If You've Ever Questioned The Emotional Capacity Of Animals, You Need To Watch This Video

We all know how hard it can be to lose someone you love, but to see loss and subsequent grief reflected in the animal kingdom is particularly tragic. Needless to say, this video of an emperor penguin mourning the loss of her chick really tugs at our heartstrings. We wish we could give her a hug like her "female companion" does.

This clip is from the upcoming BBC series "Penguins - Spy in the Huddle." For nearly a year, John Downer Productions filmed these extraordinary animals by deploying 50 spycams into colonies of emperor penguins in Antarctica, rockhopper penguins on the Falkland Islands and Humboldt penguins in the Atacama Desert of Peru. John Downer Productions called this short video "the most emotional clip we've ever filmed" on their Facebook page.

It's set to air on BBC on February 11, and is available to download in the U.S. on iTunes.


*Note from wiinterrr... this is why I became a penguin advocate*

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dr. Dee Boersma live interview on Science Friday

Hotter Weather, Heavier Rains Threaten Penguins

Jan. 31, 2014
On Friday, 31 January, Dr. Dee Boersma will be featured on Science Friday with Ira Flatow talking about penguins. Listen live from 11:00-11:20 a.m. PST via or access the audio from the interview on their website after 3 p.m. PST ( 
  • Dee Boersma
    Co-editor, "Penguins: Natural History and Conservation" (University of Washington Press, 2013)
    Executive Editor, Conservation Magazine
    Director, Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels
    Wadsworth Endowed Chair
    University of Washington
    Seattle, Washington 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Magellanic Penguins Of Argentina Threatened By Climate Change

Scientists Predict We Will Soon See 'Years Where Almost No Chicks Survive'

By Ajit Jha on January 29, 2014 
Magellanic penguin chick
Magellanic penguin chicks, like the one shown here, are born without the protective feathers needed to survive the harsh weather climate change has created. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Climate change is decimating the population of penguin chicks from the world's largest colony of Magellanic penguins, not just indirectly by making their food resources scarcer, but directly from rainstorms and heat, according to a new University of Washington study. The findings published in the January 29 issue of PLOS ONE take into account 27 years of data collected in Punto Tombo, Argentina, which is the world's largest breeing ground for Magellanics. Punto Tumbo is home to 200,000 pairs during breeding season, which lasts from September to February. "It's the first long-term study to show climate change having a major impact on chick survival and reproductive success," said lead author Dr. Dee Boersma, a UW biology professor, in a press release.

There are 17 species of penguins in the world, 10 of which (including Magellanics) breed in relatively dry and temperate area devoid of snow. Punta Tombo, for example receives an average of 0 to 4 inches of rainfall a year. The penguins have developed a lifestyle dependent on the arid climate, and rainfall can actually kill chicks. When temperature plummets in November and December, baby penguins between the ages of 9 to 23 days can sometimes fail to warm up and dry off after rain, leading to their death. After 25 days, chicks have enough plumage for protection.

While adult penguins can sustain through harsh downpour and scorching heat, penguin chicks lacking waterproof feathers can't. Not even their parents can save them. The young ones cannot take a dip in waters to protect against spiking heat as adults can. An average of 65 percent of chicks died per year, said Boersma. How they die, though, is what matters. Starving killed an average of 40 percent every year, while climate change contributed to 7 percent deaths. That number is a bit misleading, however, in certain years it alone caused 43 percent killings, said Boersma. In addition, it is hard to tease apart the causes of chick deaths. "Starving chicks are more likely to die in a storm," Boersma pointed out.   

The increased precipitation and the number of storms every breeding season is impacting the population of penguins, according to said Ginger Rebstock, a UW research scientist and the co-author of the paper. There were more storms between 1983 and 2010 in the first two weeks of December when newly hatched chicks are less than a month old. And it could get worse. "We're going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season as climatologists predict," Rebstock said.

Yet another important observation made over the 27 years by the researchers is that penguin parents are increasingly delaying arrival to the breeding site. Boersma hypothesizes that this might have something to do with food supply: that the fish the penguins eat are also arriving later than usual. The implication here is that the chicks - born later because of the late arrival by their parents - won't have grown their protective cover by November and December when storms pick up.

Given the situation, Boersma recommends creating a protected marine reserve to ensure that the largest colonies of Magellanic penguins have enough to eat while raising their chicks. This could stem the tide change currently occurring in penguin populations. The study was supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the UW, the Office of Turismo in Argentina's Chubut Province, the Global Penguin Society, and the La Regina family.


Image of the Day

Give us a stone by ericy202
Give us a stone, a photo by ericy202 on Flickr.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Encourage Protective Measures for Emperor Penguins (Please sign!)

Encourage Protective Measures for Emperor Penguins

Target: Gina Shultz, Chief of Division of Conservation and Classification, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Goal: Ensure protective status for emperor penguins

The Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it is considering the emperor penguin for official listing on the Endangered Species Act. While under consideration for Endangered Species listing, the Fish and Wildlife Service will examine factors of emperor penguins’ decline, including predation, climate change, and industrial fishing.  This is the vital first step towards increased protections for majestic birds with dwindling resources. It is crucial that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues on this trajectory and takes further necessary action to secure protective status for emperor penguins.

Top concerns for emperor penguin populations include the loss of their sea-ice habitat and the declining availability of key food sources. Carbon pollution affects climate change and melts the icy habitat that emperor penguins need to survive. Rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification result in decreased availability of krill, one of the primary food sources for penguins. Overfishing is another threat that can affect the birds, either directly by inadvertently catching penguins in nets or indirectly by increasing competition for their prey.

Endangered Species Act listing of the emperor penguin would offer greater protections in all these fields, including targeted reductions to greenhouse gas emissions to protect penguin habitats. Moreover, it would set approval requirements in place for commercial fishing vessels to minimize impacts on penguins and key prey species. With oceanic studies suggesting that emperor penguins could be strained to the brink of extinction by the end of the century, the time to act is now. Sign the petition below and tell U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chief Gina Shultz that emperor penguin populations need protection today.


Dear Gina Shultz,

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made a tremendous first step in the protection of emperor penguins by announcing their official consideration for Endangered Species Act listing. I encourage you as you continue on the path towards providing these birds with the federal protection they desperately need.
Emperor penguins’ projected population decline over the coming decades is grim. If current climate trends continue, emperor penguins face potential extinction by the end of the century as their icy habitats melt and food sources dwindle. Habitat loss due to climate change and competition for food from industrial fishing are two factors of penguin population decline that can be mitigated by securing protective status for emperor penguins.
You can ensure that these majestic creatures will not be lost from this earth forever by taking the necessary action to adequately protect them today. I strongly encourage you to speak for these voiceless victims of climate change when considering emperor penguins’ candidacy for Endangered Species Act listing.
[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Ian Duffy via Flickr

Please click this link to sign the petition! 

Dance party planned in critical Little Penguin habitat at Store Beach shut down by police

Happy feat after party plan foiled
Police managed to stop a 'location party' being held in a penguin habitat on Australia Day. Source: News Limited

POLICE managed to stop a "location party" being held in a penguin habitat on Australia Day.
The dance party was due to start late on Sunday, with the location only revealed to would-be attendees by social media at the last minute. But police got late word of what was planned and a generator was found at Store Beach, which is only accessible by water and is a critical habitat for little penguins.

At nearby Collins Beach, the police found sound equipment that was about to be taken to Store Beach by water. Even as the police were ordering the owners of the sound equipment to leave Collins Beach, hundreds of intending partygoers arrived, expecting to walk or float around to Store Beach.

Little Penguins at Store Beach avoided being caught in a dance party after police stepped in.
Little Penguins at Store Beach avoided being caught in a dance party after police stepped in. Source: News Limited

To ensure the wellbeing of the penguins, water police officers were deployed on Store Beach to prevent anyone landing there. Northern Beaches local area commander Superintendent Dave Darcy said the National Parks and Wildlife Service was adamant a dance party at Store Beach was unacceptable. "The organisers didn't (think) very long or hard about the location," he said. "Once the party had started, it would have been almost impossible to stop - it would have been a real challenge to disperse that many people. So, penguins 1, dancers nil."

Another dance party kicked off at Delwood Beach, between Manly and Fairlight, at 9pm, but the police quickly closed it down.


Meet Peyton The Penguin From Omaha

(credit: CBS)
(credit: CBS)
OMAHA, Neb. (CBS4) – CBS4’s Jeff Todd is driving across the country on his way to the Super Bowl and made a stop in Omaha, Neb. where met a special penguin on Monday. In the area farthest east of Nebraska Todd thought he would find some Kansas City Chiefs fans, but as it turns out, it’s Broncos country. So much so that one of the newest penguins at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium was named Peyton after Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Peyton the Penguin (credit: CBS)
Peyton the Penguin (credit: CBS)
“His one month birthday is today. He was born just after Christmas on the 27th and he’s about 1,000 grams now,” said zoo spokesman Dennis Pate. Pate said they had to find a way to say “thank you” to Manning for calling out “Omaha” so much when making his calls during games. “He mentioned it 30 or 40 times and the value to us here in tourism is just incredible and it’s one of the best ways that we can say thanks,” said Pate.

Pate feels Peyton the penguin will really help out the tourism, especially during summertime. “The name is out there in ways that just haven’t been seen before,” said Pate. He told Todd that he chose Manning over Eric Decker because he feels Peyton’s name is synonymous with winning and Denver football.


Picking up a penguin ‘could bring in 20,000 more visitors’

A photo of a black and white penguin with yellow feet standing on green limestone
The penguins will be viewable across three floors© The Deep
THE red carpet is being rolled out for 10 gentoo penguins who will soon be on their way from a Texas zoo to Yorkshire.

They will be getting a new £750,000 home on three floors at the Deep aquarium in Hull, complete with ice, snow and bubble-making machines

Themed on Grytviken, a whaling station in South Georgia in the South Atlantic, where the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried, it will include a jetty, 200 sq metres of space - the size of two modern semis - and 2.5 metres of water to dive in.

The Deep, which has had its busiest year since the recession with 350,000 visitors, hopes the display, which opens on March 3, could add another 20,000 visitors.

Chief executive Colin Brown said: “The reaction from the public has been incredible. There has been more interest than when we built the £6m extension which had one of the biggest displays on the deep sea in the world. “They are so characterful.”

As well as the inside areas the penguins – five males and one female, who will eventually be joined by four youngsters – will have access to an open air sun deck.

The creatures breed successfully in captivity and the Deep is hoping to increase their numbers as part of an exchange with gentoos at Edinburgh Zoo, which holds the European stud book and acts as a “dating agency.”

In the wild gentoo populations are considered stable, and there are thought to be around 60,000 adults, covering numerous islands of Antarctica, their main habitats being the Falkland Islands.
Grytviken has strong historical links with Hull, historically a whaling port, and through crew members from the city, who accompanied explorers like Shackleton.

Many penguin species were once hunted for their blubber, which was used to produce oil for human consumption, and their eggs, with a schooner “burning” tens of thousands of birds.


A photo of a black and white penguin with yellow feet standing on green limestone
The penguins' home will be themed around the abandoned whaling port© The Deep
A photo of two black and white penguins with yellow beaks standing on white pebbles
Gentoo penguins are one of 18 species in the world© The Deep
A photo of a series of penguins lounging around on green and white pebbles
The penguins are one of only four true Antarctic species. Their home has been designed to mimic this colder climate© The Deep

Image of the Day

Penguin! by ~Mr. Fox~
Penguin!, a photo by ~Mr. Fox~ on Flickr.

It's not easy being a rockhopper penguin (video)

Penguin now has global footprint

By Vaimoana Tapaleao
Emperor penguin Happy Feet  was found on Peka Peka Beach on the Kapiti Coast. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Emperor penguin Happy Feet was found on Peka Peka Beach on the Kapiti Coast. Photo / Mark Mitchell
A cast of the foot of an emperor penguin dubbed New Zealand's "Happy Feet" has spent more than a year travelling around the world to members of a unique group. In June 2011, the emperor penguin was found at Peka Peka Beach on the Kapiti Coast. It was given the name Happy Feet after the penguin in the film of the same name, who manages to wash up on the shores of Australia.
Shortly after it was found, Happy Feet was taken to Wellington Zoo, where it was cared for before being released about a month later - but not before a group of fans from around the world had formed.

Lin Wenn, of Hamilton, said the members had met online after a news website included a live chat forum on its link to a camera showing the penguin at the zoo. "We were all interested in him and ... it just sprang from there into a group that have become firm friends from around the world."

When a cast of one of the penguin's feet was put up for auction on Trade Me, the group members rallied to get together about $700 to buy it. The cast has since travelled up and down New Zealand - to the group's six members based here - and to Australia, the United States, Hong Kong and Germany.

Members of the group are encouraged to take photos of what they refer to as "The Foot" at landmarks special to a particular city or places significant to a specific member. "It's been to a few pubs ... on the roof of a police car in America, to Texas, Hong Kong and down to Hobbiton here in NZ - it's been a hoot," Mrs Wenn said. "It's been incredibly special to have something to share with everyone and to be able to see something in person - to have a piece of Happy Feet."

There are a few rules when The Foot is sent to a different member, including that the parcel must be couriered and tracked all the way. Despite precautions, The Foot has almost been lost after being mistakenly sent to a different part of the world, and was stuck in customs in Germany, where another member lives. "There has definitely been some hair-raising moments. There was a problem in Germany going through customs, who wouldn't release it. "Our member in Germany ended up going there in person and basically told them she wasn't going to leave without it."

Mrs Wenn said The Foot's next destination is Chicago, where a member's wife is due to give birth next month.


Penguin Romance: Love on the Rocks at Aquarium of Niagara

BY: Metro Source Staff | January 26, 2014

They’re not related to the colorful lovebirds of Africa, but the Aquarium of Niagara’s Humboldt penguins could be called “lovebirds.” So as Valentine’s Day approaches, the Aquarium’s nine penguins will be featured in a special program from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 6. Doors open at 5:45 p.m.

This penguin program is dedicated to our Peruvian birds that, like most folks, spend a lot of time and energy on their relationships. And since many of you love penguins, we thought you might be inspired by the love life of our flightless birds. When it comes to romance, there are a lot of similarities to humans.

We have our cutest couple, the odd couple, the May/September couple and the newly divorced and re-partnered couples. Penguins are typically monogamist, but there are exceptions. You will learn about one male from our collection, Peeker, who had multiple mates. He is a penguin playboy.

As the ultimate tribute to Valentine’s Day, four paired penguins and one “single lady” have created more than 25 original paintings, an activity conducted by the aquarists to enrich the lives of the animals in their care. With a little help from their keepers, the penguins are given canvases and non-toxic paints to create their works of art. These mini paintings will be for sale after the Penguin Romance talk.

The presentation will include how to properly ID all of the birds at the Aquarium, learn their mating courtships and displays and why a pebble is the best Valentine’s Day gift you could receive this year.

Light refreshments, Valentine and penguin themed, of course, will be served after the program.

Seating is limited and reservations should be made. Admission is $10; $15 for any twosome.

Guests must be 18 and over with a valid photo ID. Reservations can be made at 285-3575, ext. 206.


Image of the Day

IMG_6602 by Wookiewookie571
IMG_6602, a photo by Wookiewookie571 on Flickr.
You git!!!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Penguins on Ice!

By Simon Tomlinson

These penguins look like they're having a whale of a time as they leap onto this dazzlingly beautiful ice before diving back into the water. But it seems they've taken a slightly wrong turn in their haste to gather for breeding season after thrusting themselves onto a jagged iceberg that is clearly far too difficult to navigate. The flightless birds can build up a terrific amount of speed as they surge out of the ocean, launching themselves several feet into the air.

 About turn! Perched precariously on the dazzling blue ice, these penguins decide to jump back into the freezing ocean to look for a better area to gather for breeding season
About turn! Perched precariously on the dazzling blue ice, these penguins decide to jump back into the ocean to look for a better area to gather for breeding season

March of the penguins: Hundreds of Adelies make their way across Paulet Island in Antarctica to set up camp for the next few monthsMarch of the penguins: Hundreds of Adelies make their way across Paulet Island in Antarctica to set up camp for the next few months

At this time of year, hundreds of Adelie penguins set up camp on Paulet Island in Antarctica and make regular trips back into the water to catch food for their young - making sure to avoid predators in the process. Wildlife photographer Steve Bloom, from Ashford, Kent, snapped the incredible scenes during a trip to the island.

He said: 'Adilies build up speed underwater as they approach the edge of the ice shelf and propel themselves out of the water, literally ‘flying’ onto the ice. 'We think of penguins as flightless birds, but their ability to soar underwater is astounding. They are powerful swimmers and travel great distances on feeding trips which can last for days.'

Flat's better: The penguins find a better place to land. They can leap several feet into the air thanks to their powerful propulsion under waterFlat's better: The penguins find a better place to land. They can leap several feet into the air thanks to their powerful propulsion under water

On the hunt: Adelies dive back into the water in search of food for themselves and their young when they have hatchedOn the hunt: Adelies dive back into the water in search of food for themselves and their young when they have hatched

He added: 'Out at sea they can rest on ice floes or icebergs. They can also travel at high speed across the surface of the water by ‘porpoising’, where they launch themselves out in regular arcs. 'There is always danger from leopard seals which may be lurking below.' In a hilarious scene, a male Adelie was recently filmed stealing stones from its unaware neighbour’s nest. The footage, from BBC show Frozen Planet, was a huge hit online.

In a flap: The flightless birds rest on ice floes as they make their way to more solid terrain on the islandIn a flap: The flightless birds rest on ice floes as they make their way to more solid terrain on the island

Daunting outlook: Four Adelies on an ice floe in front of B-15, the world's biggest iceberg, which is currently 170 miles long by 25 miles wideDaunting outlook: Four Adelies on an ice floe in front of B-15, the world's biggest iceberg, which is currently 170 miles long by 25 miles wide
During December and January, female Adelies lay up to two eggs and the parents take it in turns to incubate them. Steve added: 'Most people who visit Antarctica find it life affirming, It gives them a sense of perspective and a heightened awareness of both the fragility and the awe-inspiring splendour of the world. 'It was an incredible experience as it’s a very different, white world which stretches to the horizon. We’re small and vulnerable out there, and it is a humbling place to visit.'


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Image of the Day

Falklands by richard.mcmanus.
Falklands, a photo by richard.mcmanus. on Flickr.
Magellanic penguins on Leopard Beach, Carcass Island, the Falklands

High-risk life for the adelie penguin

By ONE News reporter Will Hine in Antarctica
Published: Monday January 27, 2014 Source: ONE News
The adelie penguin colony at Cape Bird (Source: ONE News)
The adelie penguin colony at Cape Bird - Source: ONE News
From a distance, the adelie penguin colony at Cape Bird is a sight to behold. Tens of thousands of charismatic little birds waddle about the slopes that lead down to a vast blue sea. Sometimes they slide on their belly on the snow. At the end of the beach is a glacier which descends majestically into the ocean. And offshore, there's an island, and icebergs floating past. The vista is nothing short of gorgeous.

It's not a place for the squeamish though. Firstly there's the stench of centuries of bird poo. The guano lies in mounds on the gravelly beach, the layer rising incrementally each year.

But, even more visceral than Cape Bird's pungent odour is the savagery. The penguin nests are constantly under attack from skuas - large brown seabirds. They'll pick off the chicks, drag them away and peck them to death. After ripping out the stomach and devouring the contents, the predatory birds will move on to another victim. The killing has left the beach strewn with penguin carcasses. Some are whole, but there are also heads and legs and flippers and other parts. The cold, dry climate and dearth of microorganisms prevents the parts from breaking down quickly so the graveyard steadily accumulates.

Adelie penguin chicks risk attack by skuas

Adult adelie penguins will protect their offspring but won't usually defend another bird's chicks, meaning the young are often killed as a nest of adult penguins watch on. And, if non-related adults do choose to intervene, they will then sometimes take the chick away and do indecent things to it.
Looking to the ocean for relief from the barbarism offers little respite. There, the adult penguins are relatively safe, although the occasional marauding sea leopard is liable to pick the odd one off. Other adelies die from internal injuries after being smashed between the car-sized icebergs which jostle in the surf on the shoreline.

An adelie penguin surrounded by young

During our stay a nest of chicks was decimated as skua after skua looked for a feed. The birds would divide the pack in two, splitting off weak and unprotected birds from the group. The hostile birds also fly at humans who wander into their territory, sometimes battering their unlucky victim about the head with their wings.

To watch the adelies and skuas is to get an illuminating lesson in life. While every death results in the whimpering end to an adelie chick, it also means a skua chick, nesting in the rocks nearby, gets fed. It's the food chain, operating as it should, albeit in an uncomfortably visible way.


New take on penguins for fishermen

Dunedin fisherman Ant Smith measures a blue penguin chick at Long Point, in the Catlins, watched by Massey University veterinary science student Brandy Maloney. Photo by Janice Molloy.
Dunedin fisherman Ant Smith measures a blue penguin chick at Long Point, in the Catlins, watched by Massey University veterinary science student Brandy Maloney. Photo by Janice Molloy.
A bird in the hands was a catch of a different kind for five Dunedin fishermen who joined the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust and the Department of Conservation on a blue penguin hunt at Long Point, in the Catlins, last week. ''This is the first time we've had the opportunity to engage with the fishermen, directly,'' Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust field manager Dave McFarlane said. ''The penguin trust has long had concerns about by-catch of yellow-eyed penguins by the fishing industry, so it was great to be able to understand another group's point of view. ''They also talked to us about their concerns. The fishermen are just trying to make a living and we understand that.''
The fishermen were hands-on, helping measure and weigh the birds, before transponders were inserted under the penguins' skin. ''We had them [the fishermen] crawling through the native nettle, catching the birds. They usually see the penguins out at sea, so they found it interesting to see them in their nests on land,'' Mr McFarlane said.
The $10 Texas Instruments transponders measure 23mm by 4mm and weigh 0.6g and are inserted under the skin in the upper back. They have largely superseded flipper bands, which can interfere with the aerodynamics of the animals and cause chafing.

The transponders also allow nests to be checked with minimal disturbance. On MNonday night, the group stayed in the Nugget Point lighthouse keeper's hut, which is owned by Doc. ''We had a beer and a chat that night. It was great. It was a real meeting of minds. Penguins are big business for Dunedin City and we all understand that,'' Mr McFarlane said. The group of 15 included two Massey University veterinary science students. ''We send lots of dead penguins up to them [for autopsies], so it's nice to be able to help them back, by giving the students a wildlife component in their degrees.''

The initiative was organised by the fishermen and Southern Seabird Solutions Trust convener Janice Molloy, as part of Penguin Awareness Day, last Monday. ''We all share the same environment and it was a great experience. It was a really positive thing,'' Aurora skipper Ant Smith said. ''We don't usually get close to those birds and to be able to handle them was fantastic. They've got a bite on them, though. But we definitely want to do this again. I'd love to see it become an annual thing.''

Breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins in the South Island have increased from 150 to an estimated 442 since the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust was formed in 1987.


This Week's Pencognito!

Be sure to visit Jen and all the pengies by clicking this link!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Penguin Bon Voyage Party Held At The Tennessee Aquarium

Friday, January 24, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

ALL photos by Hollie Webb 


Tennessee Aquarium staff held a "Penguin Bon Voyage" event to send off 11 of their young Gentoo penguins. Keepers gave two special presentations, teaching the public about the species, and children were able to make penguin crafts.

As part of a population management program for Gentoo and Macaroni penguins, these 11 chicks will be starting a new life at the SeaWorld San Diego facility. Aquarium officials said, "As part of a network of accredited zoos and aquariums, frequently these animals are shared with others to ensure healthy populations in human care and to reduce pressure on wild populations."

However, the Aquarium will still have lots of penguins; there will be 19 Gentoos that remain, plus the Macaroni population. Trainer Loribeth Aldrich described the two species while a Gentoo named Shivers followed her around. "Usually," she said, "the Gentoos are very laid back."She said, "In captivity, it's hard for penguins to raise two chicks." When two sibling chicks fell behind on their weight, the aquarium staff took over in an around-the-clock process. The young penguins had to be fed nearly every three hours. Ms. Aldrich said it was an intense time, but their success was good news for the penguin program at the Tennessee Aquarium.

In nature, both the Gentoos and Macaronis hail from islands off the coast of Antarctica. As a penguin opened its beak and made a hissing noise, she explained that this was actually a greeting. She said two of the young penguins bound for SeaWorld were particularly special because they were successfully raised by hand by the trainers and staff, marking a milestone for the Tennessee Aquarium.