Weight: 5kg - 11lb - feels more
than this though when you've upset one and it's ran
up and attacked you by hanging off your thigh with its
beak, like 5 bags of sugar dangling from a pair of pliers attached
to your leg.
Average Height: 70cm - 27.5inches
Breeding Season: November
- February - Adélie penguin colonies are very loud,
raucous, busy and smelly affairs. The call of an Adélie
is as musical and gentle as a braying jackass and the whole
colony is awash with guano (posh word for bird poop). When I
was in Antarctica one thing I did was help with long-term surveys
which entailed walking through the colony (terribly frowned
upon these days). Each nest is just over two pecking distances
apart so the penguins can't reach each other. Of course
walking through the middle meant that you were in range of everyone.
I used to worry a lot about falling over in a penguin colony,
covered from head to toe in guano and pecked mercilessly.
Large colonies of up to half a million birds. Nests are lined
with pebbles, and slightly higher than the surrounding land
so that if the temperature rises and the snow melts, the nest
is not flooded. The males arrive first on the nesting site at
the beginning of the season and start the nest, then both partners
work on the nest. Usually two eggs are laid, rarely three. Incubation
of the first egg is 35 - 37 days, and the second chick is a
few days behind the first. Male and female parent share egg
and chick duty. Chicks are fed regurgitated krill (yum!) The
chicks become independent at about two months old.
Estimated world population:
- 5 million breeding pairs
tend to be found within the pack ice.
Oldest Rookery - At least
6,335 years old. The places where penguins nest together
are called rookeries. These are started and later abandoned
for reasons that are not entirely clear. Archaeological type
studies have found that these rookeries are often continually
used for many hundreds of years, even thousands. The oldest
so far found has been used every year since well before 4 000
Adélie penguins are
scared of: Leopard seals - main
predators of adult birds, and Skuas - prey on eggs and chicks
on land. They are not scared of the "Ice Man", "The
Thing" or falling over on their backs and not being able
to get up again - the first Antarctic "Urban Myth".
are more Adélie penguins than any other penguin species.
They live in the deep south and as such frequently have to cross
many kilometres of ice still bound to the continent or islands
to reach land in the spring where they can build their nests.
Sometimes they have to travel
as much as 100 kilometres, though usually 20-40 is more usual.
A long walk nevertheless.
This pair were early arrivals
in spring at an Antarctic Island near the northern edge of their
breeding range and only had about half a kilometer to waddle
Tobogganing is a way of getting
around where there is smooth snow or ice. The penguin lies on
its stomach and propels itself along using its feet, an efficient
use of energy and one where the penguin can easily keep up with
a running person.
a handsome fellow! This male Adélie is a bit late
compared to the others around him who have in the main
already paired and nested.
The males arrive at
the breeding grounds first, find a good spot and then
go through this display with much raucous calling and
flipper waving to attract a suitably impressed female.
(A similar ritual is re-enacted on Friday and Saturday
evenings at bars and clubs the world over)
This shot also shows
the half-feathered beak characteristic of Adélie
and how stocky and powerful they are despite their diminutive
7/ Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) tobogganing
Adelie penguins (and a lone chinstrap in the fore-ground).
All types of penguin that come across snow and ice can
and will toboggan in this manner. It is a very efficient
and rapid way of moving when the conditions are right
- soft snow, but where the penguin only sinks a little
way into it, needing less energy than walking the same
distance. The penguin lays on it's front and pushes
its way forwards using its feet, the flippers are used
for balance or sometimes as oars to help forwards movement.
A considerable speed can be reached for short distances
in this way, enough to out pace a running man.
8/ Penguin dive
Antarctic penguins run a constant
risk when entering or leaving the water from the almost
ever-present danger of their main predator, the leopard
seal. Leopard seals tend not to chase penguins in
open sea, but hang around the places where they jump
into the sea from their nesting areas, or where they
leave the sea again as this is gives much more productive
This gives the penguins a problem
when going into the sea, they have to enter it to go
fishing and to get places, but being the first one in
means that they're first in line for any potential leopard
seals. Hanging back isn't any better though as they
may get left behind and end up jumping in on their own.
What happens therefore is that they gather at the edge
of the water becoming quite animated and jostling for
position until one near to the edge gets pushed or jumps
in - that's the signal for the rest, as the odds of
survival are far greater when you're part of a large
group, they then all dive in in rapid succession.
- where did you come from?
penguins were walking, waddling and tobogganing up and
down the area beneath the ice foot looking somewhere
to get out. So I thought I'd play a little trick,
squat down out of view and wait for them to turn the
corner - no I didn't jump up and shout "surprise!",
but the comic effect of the first bird's reaction to
realising he was coming towards me at high speed is
Fortunately I managed
to get this shot off and capture the moment before moving
sea-wards (to the left) and allowing their progress
to continue, they were back again a few minutes later
though as all they could really do was wait for the
tide to come in and raise them up to the right level.