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

Michelle Larue, David Iles, Sara Labrousse, Leo Salas, Grant Ballard, David Ainley, Benjamin Saenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-194
Number of pages6
JournalAntarctic Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the National Science Foundation for funding (grant numbers PLR 1543498, 1543541 and 1744989), the US Antarctic Program for logistical support and DigitalGlobe, Inc., for satellite imagery. Further funding was provided by the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, University of Minnesota, University of Canterbury and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Overflights of ASPA No. 124 were taken under Antarctic Conservation Act permit #2019-006.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Antarctic Science Ltd.


  • Pygoscelis adeliae
  • aerial survey
  • behaviour
  • high-resolution satellite imagery
  • nesting


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