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World’s largest king penguin colony declines by 90%. Lost summer for Greenland shore birds.

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The Crozet islands is located halfway between the southern tip of Africa and Antarctica. One of the islands in the archipelago, named Île aux Cochons, is home to the largest colony of king penguins on earth. The king penguin is the second largest penguin species on earth after the emperor penguin. The last time scientists counted the population there was an estimated population of 2,000,000 of the 3 foot tall highly specialized birds. Reviewing satellite images and other photographic evidence, Antarctic scientists report that the colony has collapsed to a population of only 200,000. This is significant because the Île aux Cochons represents one third of the earth’s King Penguin population. These birds do not make a nest on the treeless island, instead they “lay one egg at a time and carry it around on their feet covered with a flap of abdominal skin, called a brood patch”.

The University of Vienna describes the conditions on which this particular penguin requires for survival. Hint, they are not flexible.

King penguins are in fact picky animals: in order to form a colony where they can mate, lay eggs and rear chicks over a year, they need tolerable temperature all year round, no winter sea ice around the island, and smooth beach of sand or pebbles. But, above all, they need an abundant and reliable source of food close by to feed their chicks. For millennia, this seabird has relied on the Antarctic Polar Front, an upwelling front in the Southern Ocean concentrating enormous amounts of fish on a relatively small area. Yet, due to climate change, this area is drifting south, away from the islands where most King penguins currently live. Parents are then forced to swim farther to find food, while their progeny is waiting, fasting longer and longer on the shore. This study predicts that, for most colonies, the length of the parents’ trips to get food will soon exceed the resistance to starvation of their offspring, leading to massive King penguin crashes in population size, or, hopefully, relocation.

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King Penguin
A huge colony of king penguins on the Île aux Cochons in 1982

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Click link below for article:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/7/31/1784776/-World-s-largest-king-penguin-colony-declines-by-90-Lost-summer-for-Greenland-shore-birds?detail=emaildkre

 

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