Posts Tagged ‘South Georgia Island’

What’s Black & Black and Waddles?

February 9, 2016

The Penguin Post has learned that an all black penguin was spotted by wildlife watchers at Fortuna Bay on South Georgia, about 860 miles off the Falklands in the Atlantic.

After being shown the pictures by National Geographic magazine, Dr Allan Baker of the University of Toronto described them as ‘astonishing’.  ‘I’ve never ever seen that before,’ he said. ‘It’s a one in a zillion kind of mutation somewhere. The animal has lost control of its pigmentation patterns. Presumably it’s some kind of mutation.’

The photograph was taken by Andrew Evans, one of those who spotted the penguin among several thousand of its normal-colored counterparts. Observing this black penguin waddle across South Georgia’s black sand beach revealed no different behavior than that of his fellow penguins,’ he wrote on a National Geographic blog

‘In fact, he seemed to mix well. Regarding feeding and mating behavior there is no real way to tell, but I do know that we were all fascinated by his presence and wished him the best for the coming winter season.’ Because black penguins are particularly rare there has been very little research into them.

It is estimated that about one in every 250,000 penguins shows evidence of the condition – but few are as completely black as the penguin pictured here.

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All Black Penguin!

June 30, 2014

The Penguin Post asks how big is a zillion? It’s “an extremely large, indeterminate number,” according to Dictionary.com. And how rare is an all-black penguin, rather than the black-and-white tuxedo-like colorings on most of the adorable, big, wabbly birds? It’s a one-in-a-zillion mutation, scientists say.
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On a recent trip for National Geographic Traveler magazine to the continent that is the world’s southern tip — Antarctica — Contributing Editor Andrew Evans spotted one and got pictures and video of it. He was doing a story on getting there from Washington, D.C. mostly by bus. Evans saw the penguin on the island of South Georgia, just off Antarctica, during the trip’s last leg – a boat ride from Venezuela.  Group members disembarked on South Georgia when they saw the penguin. The birds have no natural fear of humans, so Evans sat on the ground in front of the penguin when he captured it on camera. Other naturalists on the ship said the bird had been spotted on other trips, which means it’s been around awhile. From what Evans could see, the black penguin assimilated well with the others, and even appeared to have a black-and-white mate. There are some partially-black penguins, about one in every quarter million, scientists say. But this is the only one known to exist that is all black.

Tracking Young King Penguins

May 18, 2014

Why are some young penguins able to survive on their own when so many others aren’t? To find out, scientists enlisted the help of 18 fledgling king penguins that were getting ready to leave their home colonies. All of the birds were outfitted with transponders that sent signals to satellites, allowing scientists to track the penguins’ whereabouts.

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Only about half of the king penguin chicks born in the wild survive to their first birthday, and the ones that don’t make it are most vulnerable in the weeks after they set off on their own. Why are some birds able to survive when so many others aren’t?

To find out, scientists enlisted the help of 18 fledgling king penguins that were getting ready to leave their home colonies. From the Falkland Islands off the southern coast of Argentina, the volunteers included Leo, Jacki, Susi, Gus, Iona, Caldera, Hansueli, WaRu, RuWa and Youngster. From South Georgia Island, a British territory several hundred miles to the east, researchers got help from Dixi, Wicky, Tankini, Ueli, Ursula, Saanenland, Traudel and King Georg.

Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo

All of these birds were outfitted with transponders that sent signals to satellites, allowing scientists to track the penguins’ whereabouts, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. The 60-gram devices were “hydrodynamically shaped in order to minimise drag and centered on the middle of the back in order not to compromise the penguins’ balance or create excessive hydrodynamic drag.” Scientists attached them to the penguins with black waterproof tape, glue and epoxy.

More than 3 million king penguins live on islands just north of Antarctica, including 450,000 breeding pairs on South Georgia and about 720 breeding pairs on the Falkland Islands. They feed on small fish they catch along the Antarctic Polar Front, a roughly 25-mile-wide zone encircling Antarctica where cold waters sink below warmer ones from the north. When they are caring for hatchlings and stay closer to home, they also hunt for squid.

Though not endangered, king penguins are protected. Permission to tag the young birds was granted by the Animal Ethics Committee of the British Antarctic Survey.

The researchers, from Europe, Argentina and the Falkland Islands, attached transponders to the fledgling penguins in December 2007. The devices emitted signals once a minute for four hours a day. Between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2008, the researchers determined the most accurate position for each day and included that data in their analysis. Altogether, they collected location data for a total of 2,111 penguin-days, with a typical penguin being tracked for 117 days.

The researchers found that the South Georgia penguins exhibited the same types of behavior as the ones from the Falkland Islands. On most days, birds in both groups swam no more than 10 kilometers. But occasional long hauls of more than 100 km per day pushed the daily average up to 45 km. Overall, Ursula stayed closest to home, venturing only 661 km from her colony over 78 days; Youngster traveled the farthest, covering 4,783 km over 261 days.

In the first 20 days of the study, 15 of the 18 penguins headed straight for the Antarctic Polar Front. The Falkland Island penguins arrived from the north, and the South Georgia penguins swam up from the south, according to the study.

Half of the penguins were still checking in after 100 days, including eight that were tracked for more than four months. Seven of those birds headed west to the Pacific Ocean and stayed their until their transponders stopped sending signals. The remaining penguin, Youngster, went east into the Indian Ocean, then headed south toward the winter ice, the researchers reported.

At first, the tagged penguins kept their distance from the adult king penguins, something that has been observed in other species. This may give the fledglings a chance to hone their foraging skills without having to compete with more experienced hunters, the researchers wrote. Similar behaviors have been observed in other bird and mammal species in the Southern Ocean, though by the winter months (late June through late September) the younger animals migrate back into waters where their elders look for food.

King penguins usually spend four or five years “exploring the Southern Ocean” before they settle down and start breeding, the researchers noted.

The Penguin With Messy Hair

September 5, 2012

This young penguins unconventional hairstyle could be that of a typical rebellious teenager.  And like any proud parent on this first day of school, his mother appears distinctly unamused by her son’s unruly plumage. Unfortunately, there is little either can do about the unkempt mop of hair this young penguin is sporting after he took longer to shed his baby feathers than the other youngsters in the colony. But that didn’t stop his mom trying to peck and pluck his ‘hair’ into a neater shape.

Most of the other young penguins had already grown a set of adult feathers but this late developer needed a helping hand. The young King Penguin  had already grown majestic black and white feathers on his wings and stomach. But instead of a golden crest on his head, sat a tuft of downy brown fluff. The picture was taken in South Georgia by Sjoerd van Berge Henegouwen, 45. Sjoerd, 45, a criminal defence lawyer from Maastricht in The Netherlands said: ‘I kind of got the feeling that the parent penguin was worried about the chick being so late in the season with its moulting process. ‘The moulting process happens to the adult birds as well as the young penguins, they either get new feathers or exchange their down for feathers. ‘For the adults this starts towards the end of the subantarctic summer, for the youngsters however this process starts earlier. ‘The penguin in the photo is halfway done with moulting its down, but he is rather late already. ‘Some of the younger penguins are long done with shedding of their down and turning into real adult King Penguins.’

Penguins Take A Mud Bath

August 22, 2012

Considering the amount of time they spend outdoors in some of the roughest environments the world has to offer, penguins usually manage to remain remarkably dapper. However, this penguin decided to throw decorum aside in a dash for the sea, swimming across a lake of mud in its path and cloaking its usually impeccable black and white plumage in brown slime.

In fact, the bird was so thoroughly covered that it could have been trying to pass itself off as a chocolate penguin.

A huge colony of penguins were gathered on a place called Salisbury Plain in remote South Georgia when a huge mud lake poured across the ice and separated them from the water. Thousands of the cute creatures decided to be sensible and take the longer route around the muck so they could reach the ocean.

But a plucky handful decided they were not going to let a bit of mud get in their way. Instead, they jumped in and made a swim for it. However, they no doubt quickly regretted it.  Within seconds the King Penguins were covered from beak to webbed feet in oozing slime. When they emerged from the pool they looked like they had been dipped in chocolate as they were completely covered in the mud. Eventually they finally reached the sea and the embarrassed penguins threw themselves into the ice-cold ocean for a much-needed wash.

A Personal Perspective of Penguins in South Georgia

December 20, 2010

Posing for their close-ups, these are the penguins who live on the remote island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic. And while pictures of the inhabitants of Britain’s most outlying colony are common – these are possibly the most stunning ever taken. British photographer, Nick Garbutt, became very friendly with his subjects after travelling to witness the massive colony, made up of around a quarter of a million birds. In one image, taken in natural harbour Salisbury Plain, he can be seen directly in front of two king penguins.

In others, they troop to the shore and back to feed their hungry offsprint, while one pair put on a spectacular display of courtship – almost creating a mirror image of each other.The king penguins are shown to be intimate creatures, and greet each other by rubbing their stomachs together and arching their beautiful gold crested necks.

Garbutt, from Cumbria, took a three week voyage on a ship called the Vavilov.  He sailed from Ushuaia in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego, to the Falklands and from there to the remote island. The voyage also took him to the Yalour Islands and Peterman Island off the Antarctic Peninsula.’There was curiosity on both sides,’ said Nick.

‘I also felt exhilaration from being surrounded by the sounds, smells and sight of such a large mass of birds. ‘It was a really immersive experience.’ Nick was able to take the amazingly intimate shots through careful observation and physical rigour. ‘Birds were constantly moving between the colony and the sea with different individuals and groups were going back and forth. ‘Often when one sets off, others seem to follow and they trudge the same paths as previous birds. ‘Every so often little lines of penguins form as they plod down to the water’s edge. I watched this for a while with several groups, then inched my way in on my belly towards the line they were walking. ‘I was able to approach to within a metre and the penguins just walked by.

‘Sometimes they’d be inquisitive and look at me and occasionally even look at their reflection in the wide-angle lens. ‘It was quite overwhelming to be surrounded by all these birds that were also so bold and confiding as subjects. Nick was also struck by the lonely beauty of the South Georgian landscape – an emerald wilderness thousands of miles away from motherland Britain. ‘The island wildness left me feeling insignificant,’ said Nick. ‘As if I was standing on the edge of existence.’ King Penguin colonies are present all year-round on South Georgia. During winter months the penguins have the beaches to themselves. From early spring, which falls in November, they share the beaches with huge colonies of elephant seals. There are several king penguin colonies on South Georgia. Salisbury Plain is second largest colony on the islands, with over 250,000 birds in total. South Georgia is a British Dependent Island administered from the Falklands.

Headless Penguins?

December 15, 2010

There are times when we would all like to literally hide our heads for one reason or another. But, the Penguin Post has learned our impossible dream is a daily reality for these two King Penguins on the South Atlantic island of South Georgia.

Thanks to their double-jointed necks, the ‘headless’ pair can merrily go about their business with optional heads on or heads off so to speak.

When a penguin needs a scratch or two on some hard to reach part of his body, he simply bends his head completely over and attacks the area that is that needs a scratch with his beak. Such dexterity guarantees there is no such thing as a ‘hard-to-reach spot’… and most importantly for us makes for an amusing natural image. The King Penguin is the second largest species of penguin, second only to the Emperor Penguin.

Mainly found in the South Atlantic and the northernmost waters of the northern Antarctic, there are believed to be around 2.23million King Penguins and their numbers are increasing.

Penguin Doesn’t Pick On Someone His Own Size

October 12, 2010

The Penguin Post has come across what may be the feistiest penguin north of the South Pole.  It seems that this King penguin found a giant elephant seal blocking his path to the water, he stood his ground and then gave the elephant seal slap with his flipper.  It wasn’t long before the giant beast let out a huge roar giving the spunky penguin an incentive to find an alternate route around him.  The altercation on the South Atlantic island of South Georgia was captured by British wildlife photographer Robert Fuller, 38.  He said: ‘Several seals had just come out of the surf and were lying on the shore blocking the penguins from getting to the water. But this young penguin was full of bravado.”  Perhaps had he access to a slingshot things would have turned out differently.

 

I'm waddling here, I'm waddling here!