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A possible Adélie penguin sub-colony on fast ice by Cape Crozier, Antarctica

  • Michelle Larue (a1) (a2), David Iles (a3), Sara Labrousse (a3), Leo Salas (a4), Grant Ballard (a4), David Ainley (a5) and Benjamin Saenz (a6)...

Abstract

Adélie penguins are renowned for their natal philopatry on land-based colonies, requiring small pebbles to be used for nests. We report on an opportunistic observation via aerial survey, where hundreds of Adélie penguins were documented displaying nesting behaviours on fast ice ~3 km off the coast of Cape Crozier, which is one of the largest colonies in the world. We counted 426 Adélie penguins engaging in behaviours of pair formation, spacing similarly to normal nest distributions and lying in divots in the ice that looked like nests. On our first visit, it was noticed that the guano stain was bright pink, consistent with krill consumption, but had shifted to green over the course of ~2 weeks, indicating that the birds were fasting (a behaviour consistent with egg incubation). However, eggs were not observed. We posit four hypotheses that may explain the proximate causes of this behaviour and caution against future high-resolution satellite imagery interpretation due to the potential for confusing ice-nesting Adélie penguins with the presence of emperor penguin colonies.

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