Adelie Penguin Pygoscelis adeliae



Conservation Status

According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Adélie penguins are of least concern. The overall population is supposed to be  large, stable, and covers a large range.

Effects of human activity on populations

Flipper Bands
Flipper bands have been widely used since the 1950’s to easily monitor individual penguins. The apparent survival of banded penguins varies between species and studies, but few studies compare banded with unbanded individuals to see if there is any reduction in fitness due to banding. These studies are done experimentally and not on wild penguins in their natural habitats. Dugger et al. (2006) studied the effects of flipper banding on wild Pygoscelis adeliae’s ability to forage for food and found that banded penguins foraging trips were 3.9-9.2 hours longer during 2000, 2002, and 2003 and 6 hours longer in 2001 than trips of unbanded birds. Though the bands seem to cause a difference in trip length they did not have any effect on the food load a penguin was able to carry. Foraging trips were measured by time spent away from nest not specifically time spent foraging in the ocean. It may be that banded Adélies spent more time preening after jumping from the water and before returning to the nest if, for instance, the band made it difficult to distribute uropygial oil to feathers. Banding also had a negative effect on survival rate. The survival rate was 11-13% less for banded birds when compared to the survival rate of unbanded birds. The survival of banded birds was the same regardless of whether it was the first year or many years after banding (Dugger et al. 2006).

Human Disturbances
Adélie penguins live in an area of the world where human activity is very low, but increasing and can directly or indirectly affect penguin populations. A major problem is that research centers are being built where Adélies would usually nest on ice free land (Carlini et al. 2007). Also aircraft may fly directly over or land to close to rookeries driving some parents away from their eggs and chicks. Often people who are not actually studying the Adélie penguins will make unnecessary visits just to take photographs. Researchers also bring dogs that may kill a penguin for sport. The people in Antarctica aren’t the only problem. Outside the continent litter can get into the sea and float down to the ice flows where it will just sit contaminating the Adélie’s habitat. Pesticides also can make their way south through the food chain. Then when the penguins eat krill the pesticides will continue to accumulate in their fatty tissues. These toxins will then be released, sometimes at highly toxic levels, during large fat loss stages such as breeding, incubation and courtship (Richard 1981).

Even with all these ways humans can disturb a population it is unclear whether human influence is a major cause for a decrease in population. A 10 year study by Carlini et al. (2007) found that in areas with high human traffic rates Adélies were having the same number of chicks and decreased at a similar rate as penguins nesting in areas of low human traffic rates. Another study by Bricher (2008) found that the closer a population was to human activity the quicker it decreased in size. Though populations that had very little human disturbance, such as at Whitney Pt., were more affected by the weather than people.

Recommended Citation

Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: