Time-lapse imagery of Adélie penguins reveals differential winter strategies and breeding site occupation

Peer Reviewed

Caitlin Black, Colin Southwell, Louise Emmerson, Daniel Lunn, Tom Hart

PLOS ONE, Issue 3, 2018, 10.1371/journal.pone.0193532.

Polar seabirds adopt different over-wintering strategies to survive and build condition during the critical winter period. Penguin species either reside at the colony during the winter months or migrate long distances. Tracking studies and survey methods have revealed differences in winter migration routes among penguin species and colonies, dependent on both biotic and abiotic factors present. However, scan sampling methods are rarely used to reveal non-breeding behaviors during winter and little is known about presence at the colony site over this period. Here we show that Adélie penguins on the Yalour Islands in the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) are present year-round at the colony and undergo a mid-winter peak in abundance during winter. We found a negative relationship between daylight hours and penguin abundance when either open water or compact ice conditions were present, suggesting that penguins return to the breeding colony when visibility is lowest for at-sea foraging and when either extreme low or high levels of sea ice exist offshore. In contrast, Adélie penguins breeding in East Antarctica were not observed at the colonies during winter, suggesting that Adélie penguins undergo differential winter strategies in the marginal ice zone on the WAP compared to those in East Antarctica. These results demonstrate that cameras can successfully monitor wildlife year-round in areas that are largely inaccessible during winter.

Categories: Antarctic, Natural Science