13 March 2018

'Supercolony' of Adelie penguins discovered in Antarctica

ANTARCTICA – For the past 40 years, the total number of Adélie penguins, one of the most common on the Antarctic peninsula, has been steadily declining – or so biologists have thought. But a new study led by Stony Brook University ecologist Heather Lynch and colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is providing new insights about this penguin species. In a Scientific Reports paper, the international research team announced the discovery of a previously unknown “supercolony” of more than 1,500,000 Adélie penguins in the Danger Islands, a chain of remote, rocky islands off of the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip.

28 February 2018

King penguins may be on the move very soon

SUB-ANTARCTIC – King penguin colonies in Crozet, Kerguelen and Marion sub-Antarctic islands  – more than 70% of the global king penguin population – may be nothing more than a memory in a matter of decades, as global warming will force the birds to move south, or disappear. This is the conclusion of a study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

King penguins. Photo (c) Celine LeBohec.
"The main issue is that there is only a handful of islands in the Southern Ocean and not all of them are suitable to sustain large breeding colonies" said Robin Cristofari, lead author of the study, from the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien (IPHC) (a mixed research unit of the CNRS and the University of Strasbourg) and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco (CSM).

King penguins are picky animals – in order to form a colony where they can mate, lay eggs and rear chicks over a year, they need tolerable temperatures all year round, no winter sea ice around the island, and smooth beach of sand or pebbles. But, above all, they need an abundant and reliable food source close by to feed their chicks.

25 February 2018

How to tell male king penguins from female ones - all the time

SUBANTARCTIC - It is difficult to distinguish males from females among king penguins, but a new Ibis study reveals that king penguins can be sexed with an accuracy of 100% based on the sex-specific syllable pattern of their vocalisations. In comparison, using beak length to sex king penguins is accurate 79% of the time.
Male-female king penguin couple
Image (c) Hannah Kriesell

09 February 2018

Annual yellow-eyed penguin breeding results remain low

NEW ZEALAND – The Department of Conservation (DOC) and Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust estimate there are 250 breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) along the Otago and Southland coastline as their annual breeding season comes to an end.

This estimate is similar to the past two seasons (250 pairs and 260 pairs) but considerably lower than historically, where there have been between 400–600 breeding pairs.

22 January 2018

No-fishing zones help endangered penguins

SOUTH AFRICA – Small no-fishing zones around colonies of African penguins can help this struggling species, new research shows.

African penguins. Photo credit: Richard Sherley
Working with the South African government, researchers from the University of Exeter and University of Cape Town tested bans on catching "forage fish" such as sardines and anchovies – key prey for the endangered penguins – from 20 km around their breeding islands.

The body condition and survival of chicks improved when the no-fishing zones were in place.

More research is needed, but the scientists say the fishing closures should continue in South Africa and should be considered elsewhere.

11 December 2017

Fishing nets major threat to penguins

AUSTRALIA – The results of the first global review of penguin bycatch are in – and they highlight the serious risks that fishing nets pose to the survival of many penguin species. The study was published in the journal Endangered Species Research.

Penguins are among the world’s most iconic and loved birds, in spite of the fact most people will never get to see one in the wild. And opportunities to do so are diminishing, with 10 of the 18 penguin species threatened with extinction. After albatrosses, penguins are the most threatened group of seabirds. And this global review shows that, as it is for albatrosses, bycatch is a serious threat to some penguin species.

02 December 2017

Yellow-eyed penguin nest numbers down

NEW ZEALAND – Recent yellow-eyed/hoiho penguin nest counts on mainland New Zealand indicate a continued decline in numbers in some areas for this rare species, said Department of Conservation (DOC) Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki.

DOC carries out monitoring, research, and intensive management for yellow-eyed penguins alongside Treaty Partner Ngāi Tahu, key programme partner the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, University of Otago, important local associates such as Penguin Place and Penguin Rescue, community groups and volunteers.