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Adelie Penguins (The Original Pingu? )
|Picture:a Handsome Pair of Adelies. Paulet Island. Off the Antarctic Peninsula. 2 Jan 1990
Adelie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae)
Adelie penguins are one of the three brush-tailed penguins, also called stiff tailed or long tailed because they have relatively longer tails than other penguins. It is the adelies, not the emperors that travel furthest south to nest, although they do not over winter like the emperors do. At one emperor colony the little adelies could be seen trudging through and past the emperors. Like the emperors they breed on the Antarctic continent itself and when they return not all the sea ice has melted so they may have to walk 10 or 20 miles or in a bad year 50 miles to their nest sites.Apart from Pingu having an orange beak and the adelies having a black beak the adelies are the most like Pingu of all the penguins and are feisty lovely little birds.
A Long Tailed Bird
|Picture:Adelie Returning to its Nest. The Characteristic Long Tail can be Seen Clearly Here. Coronation Island South Orkneys. 31 Dec 1989.
The other two are the gentoos and chinstraps. Adelies are about 28inches high (71cm) and weigh around 12lb (5.5kg). They are smaller than most penguins, have very dense feathers and a thick layer of blubber. Of course they vary from penguinery to penguinery and those at the South Orkneys, South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsular have shorter stubby flippers, feet and bills. It has even been suggested that the southern ones may be a sub-species.
Feeding the Chicks
|Picture:Adelie Chick Being fed. Notice the "punk" Hair Style of the Adult Adelie to the Right of the Parent.Coronation Island. South Orkneys. 31 Dec 1989.
Adelies are called after Adele d’Urville, the wife of Jules-Sebastien-Cesar Dumont d’Urville, French explorer who also incidentally persuaded the French government in 1819 to buy the Venus de Milo.
Their cap and chin are black and they have a black back with a bluish tinge. Feet are a greyish pink and the beak is dark red, half feathered. Eyes are dark red with a white eye ring which gives them a startled look.
They have 2 chicks, dark grey and juveniles have a white chin and black eye ring. Sometimes the feathers on their heads seem to stand up giving them a punk look.
Nests of Pebbles
|Picture:A Typical Adelie Nest of a Ring of Stones. Notice the Pink Krill Debris Around the Nest. Coronation Island. South Orkneys.31 Dec 1989.
Nests are rings of pebbles with bits of bone and vegetation that help to keep the wet from the chicks and eggs.
|Picture:A Nice Irony. Adelies Nesting on the Derelict Hut Built by the 20 Marooned Crew of Capt Larsen's "Antarctica". They Killed 1100 Moulting Adelies to Feed on. They Didn't Need Them All Anyway! Paulet Island. Off the North of the Antarctic Peninsula. 2 Jan 1990.
The adelies spend three quarters of the year at sea in the pack ice and as the Antarctic spring approaches move further south to their traditional breeding sites. The males arrive early in October and spring clean their previous nest sites. It takes 2-3 weeks for nest building courtship and mating.
|Picture:Adelie Brooding Chicks. Coronation Island. South Orkneys.31 Dec 1989.
Once the eggs are laid the male takes the first incubation period for about 2 weeks while the female goes back to sea to feed. After this the parents alternate and the eggs hatch after about 7 weeks. In all they incubate for 34 days, brood for 25 days and the chicks fledge in January/February.
A Sizeable Egg
|Picture: Adelie Eggshell. The Wotan Box (Flash Cubes) was put there for Scale. (It was About 4 Inches Long). Coronation Island. South Orkneys.31 Dec 1989.
They incubate the eggs horizontally laying on them and if there is a cold wind turn and face into it. Towards the end of the incubation period the parents change shifts every 2-3 days. Chicks hatch with the remnant of the yolk sac in their system and they can live on this for up to 6 days. The chicks peck small holes in the egg shell to get out using the tooth on the end of their beaks.
A Punk Hairstyle
|Picture: Adelie Chick Being Fed. Notice the Punk Hair Style of the Adelie to the Right of the Parent. Coronation Island, South Orkneys. 31 Dec 1989.
Although one egg is laid 3 days earlier than the other both chicks emerge at the same time. They ask for food by touching the parents chin. The parents regurgitate food from their stomachs. Adelie chicks put on about 100gm per day and after 2 weeks are big enough to control their body temperature and move away from their parents.
An Adelie Creche
|Picture: A Creche of Adelie Chicks. Coronation Island. South Orkneys. 31 Dec 1989.
Chicks go into crèches at about 3 weeks after which both parents go fishing (or krilling!) for the larger amounts of food needed as the chicks grow. The crèches provide protection against the cold as the chicks huddle together and some protection against predators especially the great skuas that are always lurking around the colonies waiting for opportunities for a meal.
Practising for Adulthood
|There are always adults around to help protect the young. When a skua flies over the colony the penguins get very excited and all the beaks point into the air as a defence mechanism, like a forest of mediaeval pikes. I have seen a skua viciously attack a fully-fledged adelie chick even though its parent was next to it. The parent drove it off so I hoped the little chick made it. It isn’t all one sided though as it has been known for an adelie to kill a skua with its hard beak.|
|The chicks will chase the parents for food as they get bigger and it has been suggested that this may help the adult to equally distribute the food as the hungrier chick will make more effort to get it. The parents feed their chicks nearer and nearer the sea and they stay in groups till they are fully fledged and ready to dive in and feed themselves. |
Fleeing the Intrusive Ship
|It takes 50-60 days from hatching to fledging and then the young birds go north for the next 3 years returning to the same colony to breed. At this stage there are a lot of casualties as the leopard seals are waiting for the food bonanza from the inexperienced chicks. After the chicks are independent the parents go back to sea for 3 weeks to feed up ready for the moult. At the end of the breeding season the birds moult which is a miserable itchy debilitating time for them and as they are no longer waterproof they can’t go to sea to feed. The parents stay on land for about 20 days for the moult and lose about half of their body weight. After this they also go north to spend the winter at sea.|
Resting on Ice Floes
|Adelies go about 10-15 miles for food but can travel as far as 120 miles. They dive for about 90 seconds and less than 45m but can go as deep as 175m. On each dive they take about 16 krill. Adelies tend to take smaller krill than chinstraps perhaps because they start breeding earlier when the krill is still growing.|
|Of all the penguins the little adelies seem to pop out of the sea like corks from bottles of champagne. It is not unusual for adelies to mistake the bottom of a zodiac (rubber dinghy) for an ice floe and pop out into the boat to the consternation of the adelie and the concern of the passengers. This happened during a zodiac tour near the Murray Monoliths in the summer of 1998/99.|
Ready Steady Go!
|When adelies go back to sea to fish they tend to cluster round the shore in groups. Then all of a sudden one decides to go and they all go. They leave in groups and come back in groups. This is thought to be a defence mechanism to confuse predators. |
Predator & Penguin Share an Ice Floe
|Predators are giant petrels, great skuas, orcas and leopard seals.
It is said that if a leopard seal and penguin are on an ice floe the seal will not attack the penguin. I have indeed seen both on the same floe with the seal showing no interest. However if I were an adelie I would not bank on it!
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