South Georgia Birdlife

Page 3

The Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is another species that breeds on South Georgia. These birds reach a typical height of 2ft 6 inches (75cm), the male adult typically weighing 17.6lbs (8Kg) and the female 16.5lbs (7.5Kg). The gentoo seems to set up nesting sites some distance from the water and the rookeries that I was able to see, tended to be a lot smaller than the king penguin sites, totalling no more than about 20 pairs. Whilst other penguins lay just the one egg, the gentoo sometimes lays two. Why, nobody seemed to know. Unfortunately there is a language barrier between humans and penguins so we are not likely to find out directly. One can only surmise that perhaps numbers were dropping off and it was mother nature's way of trying to recover the population. If anybody has worked it out, I would be interested to know. Gentoo penguins lay their eggs in nests, typically made from a pile of stones, with the parents taking equal incubation duties, changing on a daily basis. The nesting habits leave them vulnerable to attack by the Skua. In all there are around 100,000 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins on the island.

There is another sub species (Pygoscelis ellsworthii) which breeds on other islands on the atlantic side of Antarctica and on the Antarctic peninsula.

Of the other species on South Georgia, the Chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarctica) pictured left, has about 6000 breeding pairs, mainly on the south east of the island. Chinstrap penguins are typically 2ft 4 inches to 2ft 6 inches (70 - 75 cm) tall, an adult bird weighing around 11 lbs (5Kg). Like the Gentoo, the Chinstrap makes a circular nest of stones, and typically lays two eggs.

The group of Adélie penguins below were seen on Signy Island in the South Orkney Group.

(I'll sort out the background when I can get to my originals)