Polar Biology

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 363–370 | Cite as

People in Antarctica — how much do Adélie Penguins Pygoscelis adeliae care?

  • Rory P. Wilson
  • B. Culik
  • R. Danfeld
  • D. Adelung


In the course of physiological field studies, we opportunistically examined the effects of humans and aircraft on breeding Adélie Penguins Pygoscelis adeliae. Proximity to both aircraft and humans caused substantial increases in penguin heart rate even when no external stress was manifest. A solitary human at 20 m distance from commuting penguins on a well-used pathway caused the birds to deviate by 70 m. Birds at nests exposed to a single human fled much more readily when the brood consisted of large chicks (critical distance 6.1 m) rather than small chicks (critical distance 1.3 m) or eggs (critical distance 0.3 m). Aircraft caused birds to panic at distances greater than 1,000 m and 3 days exposure to a helicopter inhibited birds that had been foraging from returning to their nests, caused bird numbers in the colonies to decrease by 15% and produced an active nest mortality of 8%. Based on this data, we make recommendations to minimize stress on Adélie Penguin colonies exposed to man.


Heart Rate Field Study External Stress Critical Distance Active Nest 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rory P. Wilson
    • 1
  • B. Culik
    • 1
  • R. Danfeld
    • 1
  • D. Adelung
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für MeereskundeKiel 1Germany

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