Keeping an eye on penguins

The status of penguins has not been an easy thing to establish but new techniques and knowledge are improving assessments.

Scientists are studying the distribution and abundance of penguins and other animals by studying high-quality satellite images, rather visiting the animals in person.

Last year, in a colony of around 40,000 Adélie penguins, scientists encountered about 18,000 tiny chick corpses. All but two of the colony’s Adélie chicks had died, apparently of starvation. And during the breeding season of 2013–2014, not a single chick survived.

The scientists studying these colonies say that the reasons for the mass deaths are complicated and that Adelie numbers are growing.

And lo, early this year a previously unknown colony of 1.5 million Adelies was discovered on the Antarctic Peninsula (which extends towards South America).

But all the study in the world, without action, won’t save many penguin species which are in danger from climate change and overfishing.

A strong case is being made to protect the penguin colonies of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands where one-quarter of the world’s penguins live.

And how could we allow ourselves to lose such endearing creatures as penguins. This photograph of a Gentoo Penguin mother and chick won the Audubon Photography Awards grand prize for 2017.



A good season for chicks

The Little Penguins at Penneshaw are moulting and will soon be heading out to sea to fatten up. The penguins need about a month eating full time at sea to make up for the energy they have lost during breeding and chick rearing. Soon there won’t be many penguins to see in the burrows around the Penguin Centre (February is a very lean month for penguin viewing).

Most chicks are already out feeding and growing up. It has been a very good year for chicks at Penneshaw which should produce a record total (in recent times) of 28 chicks.

One chick near the Penguin Centre lost its father (maybe to a snake) but its mother is bringing the chick up on her own.

Penguins at risk from fishing nets

A new article on The Conversation has some alarming news about penguins. It begins:

Fishing nets pose a serious risk to the survival of penguin species, according to a new global review of the toll taken by “bycatch” from commercial fishing. Fourteen of the world’s 18 penguin species have been recorded as fishing bycatch.

Chicks and Chris

This season is looking promising for the Penneshaw penguin colony. Four chicks have already hatched and others are on the way. Centre manager Nick Pike says that two new pairs have formed, and that he saw a White-winged Triller near the centre last week, only the fourth record for Kangaroo Island.

But all is not good news. Our beloved Chris Baxter has died. Chris was not only a dear friend to those of us who knew him, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Kangaroo Island birds. We’ll miss him but we thank him for the gift of his beautiful book, Birds of Kangaroo Island, a treasure to remember him by.

Coming ashore to nest

The Penneshaw Little Penguins, which have been out at sea feeding over the last couple of weeks, are now coming back to shore.

They’ll often stay ashore for about week and then go out to feed again. Little Penguins mainly eat pilchards and anchovies. They are fattening up in preparation for breeding.

About 12 pairs have set themselves up in Penneshaw so far, and more could come later. The earliest pairs should start laying eggs soon but we won’t be seeing any chicks out of the nest for at least a couple of months.

Penguins tours start at 6.30pm and 7.30pm from the Penneshaw Penguin Centre every night from tomorrow night.