Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dr. Boersma introduces Ryan the Penguin

Introducing Ryan the Penguin

Ryan carried a GPS logger just like the bird pictured above. 

Ryan is an adult male Magellanic penguin that breeds in the largest Magellanic penguin colony in the world at Punta Tombo, Argentina with about 200,000 other breeding pairs of penguin. To thank our supporters and donors at Experiment, we’ve named Ryan after a Dr. Pepper-loving, UK-hailing engineer at Experiment. We thank you and all those who supported our penguin conservation campaign in 2012 to purchase a tracking tag. With your funding, we were able to put a GPS satellite tag on Ryan during the 2012 and 2013 breeding seasons and track his whereabouts while foraging at sea. We got to see how far he swam, how deep he dove, and how long he was away from his hungry chicks. Below is a bit more info about our feisty, flippered friend.

Ryan was banded as an adult, and has lived in the same bush nest for at least the last two years. He has the same mate as last year and they have been a very successful pair, rearing two chicks in 2012-2013 and another two in 2013-2014. By tracking him at sea over the last two breeding seasons, we learned that like other successful parents, he foraged within about 100 km of his nest on most of his trips. His trips were shorter when his chicks were small; some as close as fifty or sixty kilometers offshore. They got progressively longer with his longest recorded trip reaching about 160 kilometers from the colony at the end of December.

This past season, we saw Ryan and his mate together when we first checked his nest on October 7th, 2013. Ryan’s mate laid two eggs by the 19th of October and took the first incubation stint. Ryan relieved her in early November and by late November, when their first egg started to hatch, they were trading off incubation duties regularly. The first chick hatched on the 24th of November. The second hatched on the 27th of November. Both chicks grew rapidly. The first chick was three days older and had a pretty big head start on growth. On December 10th, the #1 chick weighed 1.02 kilograms and the #2 chick weighed 0.515 kilograms, but they were both being fed consistently. We gave Ryan a GPS logger because the chicks both looked so healthy and he weighed 4.3kg. On December 24th, we saw Ryan at home feeding his chicks a big meal of hake. We checked his nest every ten days during the breeding season and saw Ryan, his mate, or just his two chicks each time. Ryan had his GPS logger removed on January 5th and weighed the same as when we put the tag on, 4.3 kg. He maintained his weight while swimming 100’s of kilometers and feeding two growing chicks. The #1 chick weighed 3.5 kg at its last measurement and fledged on the 12 of February. The #2 chick weighed 3 kg at its last measurement and fledged on the 19th of February. Ryan looked healthy when we saw him for the final time this season on the 22nd of February. We can’t wait to see what he does next year.

Your support and funding allow us to follow the details of these penguins’ lives, just like we do with our own good friends. Thank you so much for your support. To learn more about penguins and our work and see pictures and maps from other penguins that have carried tracking tags, visit and sign up for the penguin update. Our research and the penguins continue to benefit from your support and interest. 

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