Original Paper

Polar Biology

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 221-225

First online:

Satellite telemetry of the winter migration of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae)

  • Lloyd S. DavisAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Otago Email author 
  • , P. Dee BoersmaAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Washington
  • , Gordon S. CourtAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Otago

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Abstract

Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), after breeding in Antarctica during the austral summer, undergo a winter migration before returning to the breeding grounds 8 months later. It is the major source of adult mortality, with about a quarter of them not returning. Here we describe the first attempt to track the winter migration of Adélie penguins using satellite telemetry. Transmitters were attached to two penguins on 16 February 1991 after their post-breeding moult at Cape Bird, Ross Island, Antarctica. Transmissions were received from one penguin (bird #1) for 4.4 months, during which time it travelled 2792.6 km from the rookery (nearly 1500 km straight-line distance). Transmissions were received from the other penguin (bird #2) for 2.5 months during which time it followed a path remarkably similar to that of bird #1. The penguins travelled northwards up the coast of Victoria Land, keeping within 100 km of the coast, rounding Cape Adare soon after 29 March and were midway between the Balleny Islands and the Antarctic coast on 3 May. Thereafter, the record from bird #1 shows that it travelled further westwards until, when opposite the Mastusevich Glacier Tongue of the Mastusevich Glacier, it turned due north and moved away from the coast. By 29 June, when transmissions ended, its progression had slowed and it was northwest of the Balleny Islands near a zone where pack ice covered 75% of the surface of the sea. Two novel points that arise from this study are: (1) that Adélie penguins from Cape Bird undergo winter migrations of not less than 5000 km, and (2) that they may be travelling to common overwinter feeding grounds.