Return of Bird of the Week: Adélie Penguin


If WC has a favorite penguin, among the ten or so species he has seen, it has to be the Adélie Penguin. This bird is all business, all of the time. Partly, that’s because they are the most southerly-dwelling of all the penguin species. Emperor Penguins famously breed further south, but when Emperor chicks are fledged the species heads north. Adélies, by contrast, remain at the southernmost edge of open water year-round.

Adelie Penguin on Nest

Adelie Penguin on Nest

As a species, Adélies are doing all right globally, but in the area of the Antarctic Peninsula, where WC saw them, they are in deep trouble, Adélies are krill and silverfish specialists, and those prey are found at the melting edge of the sea ice. As that sea ice retreats further and further, or vanishes altogether, Adélie colonies are failing. That has a cascade effect among species like Skuas, Orcas and Leopard Sets that depend on Adélies for food.

Adélies live very close to the edge. It doesn’t take much to push them over that edge.

Adélie Penguin, Yalour Islands, Antarctic Peninsula

Adélie Penguin, Yalour Islands, Antarctic Peninsula

There’s an excellent book on the plight of the West Antarctic Adélie Penguins, Fraser’s Penguins, by Fen Montaigne (Amazon link). While slightly dated – it was published in 2010 – it documents the effect of climate change on this delightful species. And the effect is draconian. If we’re not careful, they’ll be gone.

Adélie Penguin, Yalour Islands, Antarctic Peninsula

Adélie Penguin, Yalour Islands, Antarctic Peninsula

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