18 March 2017

East Antarctica's Adelie penguin population more than double previous estimate

ANTARCTICA – Scientists have their best estimate yet of how many Adélie penguins live in East Antarctica, numbering almost six million, 3.6 million more than previously estimated.

The new research by a team of Australian, French and Japanese scientists used aerial and ground surveys, tagging and resighting data, and automated camera images over several breeding seasons.

The researchers focused on a 5000 kilometre stretch of coastline in East Antarctica, estimating 5.9 million birds and extrapolating that out to likely global estimate of 14–16 million birds.

17 March 2017

In times of plenty, penguin parents keep feeding their grown offspring

A fledged juvenile Galapagos penguin.
Photo credit: Dee Boersma/Galapagos National Park
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS – Humans are not alone in continuing to support offspring who have “left the nest”. It happens in Galapagos penguins, too.

In a paper published online in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, a research team led by University of Washington biology professor Dee Boersma reported that fully grown Galapagos penguins who have fledged – or left the nest – continue to beg their parents for food. And sometimes, probably when the bounty of the sea is plentiful, parents oblige and feed their adult offspring.

“Through field seasons over the years when we were observing penguin behavior in the Galapagos Islands, we saw these isolated instances of adults feeding individuals who had obviously fledged and left the nest,” said Boersma.

“And now we’ve collected enough field observations to say that post-fledging parental care is a normal – though probably rare – part of Galapagos penguin behavior.”

12 March 2017

Penguin hospital saves five percent of yellow-eyed population

NEW ZEALAND – The penguin hospital at Otago Polytechnic’s School of Veterinary Nursing has had 24 yellow-eyed penguins through in the last six weeks.

With only 250 breeding pairs in the wild this year, that means that wildlife vet Lisa Argilla has saved five percent of the breeding population.

“Yellow-eyed penguins are one of the rarest penguins in the world, and are unique to New Zealand.  If we don’t look after them now, they will die out” Dr Argilla said.

27 February 2017

Giant penguin fossil shows penguins may have lived with dinosaurs

NEW ZEALAND – The recent discovery of an approximately 61-million-year-old giant penguin fossil has lead scientists to suggest that penguin evolution started much earlier than previously thought – probably during the age of dinosaurs.

The fossil and its implications are described by Dr Gerald Mayr from Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany and colleagues from Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the journal The Science of Nature.

26 February 2017

New guidance on hand-rearing decisions for endangered penguin chicks

African penguin chicks. Photo credit: SANCCOB.
SOUTH AFRICA – Researchers have developed a model to provide guidance on the likelihood of abandoned African penguin chicks surviving after they are admitted to rehabilitation.

Developed by researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Cape Town, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) and Bristol Zoological Society, it is the first model of its kind.

The use of rehabilitation for conservation is growing worldwide, with many research papers monitoring the success of individuals after their release. Rearing chicks that are unlikely to survive naturally could significantly contribute to the conservation of threatened bird species such as the African penguin.

22 February 2017

New study reveals over two decades of penguins' diets

Gentoo penguin chicks. Photo credit: BAS.
ANTARCTICA – The longest and most comprehensive study to date of what penguins eat has been published this month in the journal Marine Biology. It examines the diets of gentoo penguins at Bird Island, South Georgia over a 22-year period and is part of a project investigating the Southern Ocean ecosystem and its response to change.

Penguin parents forage at sea returning to feed their chicks every day. The research team, based at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), found that between 1989 and 2010 gentoo penguins ate approximately equal amounts of crustaceans (mainly Antarctic krill) and fish.

15 February 2017

Endangered African penguins are falling into an 'ecological trap'

AFRICA – As the climate changes and fisheries transform the oceans, the world's African penguins are in trouble, according to researchers reporting in Current Biology on 9 February. Young penguins aren't able to take all the changes into account and are finding themselves "trapped" in parts of the sea that can no longer support them even as better options are available.

"Our results show that juvenile African penguins are stuck foraging for food in the wrong places due to fishing and climate change," said Richard Sherley of the University of Exeter and University of Cape Town.