Every day is a new adventure in the Adélie Penguin breeding colony at Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarcitca. Our colony has about 2000 breeding pairs of Adelie Penguins and there are two of us who live in a tent about a quarter mile from the nesting sites. Dr.David Ainley is a world authority on Adelie Penguins and the principal investigator for the research team that monitors several colonies on the island. Jean Pennycook is an educator, who shares Dr Ainley's work with the world. They live in a tent for 2.5 months every season learning about these remarkable birds.

Along the way to work each day they pass Shackelton's hut built in 1908 which is now a world heritage site. Besides Adelie Penguins, Emperor Penguins, seals, whales, skuas and snow petrels come to Cape Royds. In the background Mt Erebus, one of three volcanos on Ross Island and the only active one provide a scenic backdrop to the penguin colony. Follow along the daily stories as the season progresses.

Here are links to the web-based penguin activities.

Click here for additional information about Adelie Penguins and how they are coping with climate change. Click here for additional activities you can do in your classroom.

Questions about this page? Email me.

Jean Pennycook jean.pennycook@gmail.com

Map of Ross Island showing the penguin colonies in our research study.

Cape Royds Adelie Penguin breeding colony.

Stories from the 2015-2016 Adélie Penguin breeding season at Cape Royds, Antarctica.

click on any picture to see a larger version


Jan 18, 2016

Hungry Chicks. Adélie Penguin chicks need 60 pounds of food to grow and fatten up before they can be on their own. Parents have to work hard to bring in enough food for them. Here is a parent coming back from the ocean with a belly full of food fro his chicks. It is my job to find out what the penguins are ffeding their chicks so I follow him to the nest and watch. Krill = pink, Fish =silver. The last few days have all been fish.    

penguin flag

Jan 16, 2016

Penguin Flag. This flag is from classrooms #107 and #106 at the Montessori Academy, Mishawaka, Indiana. It is a piece of art with individual penguins sewn on the fabric. Both sides are covered with penguins and each one is different. It is flying now at Cape Royds, to help us wind down the seaon with the penguins.

penguin colony

Jan 17, 2016

A season in the colony. This image shows the changes over time in our Adélie penguin breeding colony at Cape Royds. Oct 16, no penguins have arrived, Dec 13, all eggs have been laid and it is very quiet as the birds take turns incubating. Jan 1, hatching is almost complete and and there is lots of activity getting food for hungry chicks. Mar 7, everyone is gone, another winter starts and the penguins are at sea. If you would like to see a short time-lapse video of the entire season go HERE

Jan 13, 2016

We are BACK. Cape Royds took a beating the last few days. Sustained winds over 50 mph, and blinding snow. We had to stay in the tent. The tent lost it's outer layer and is now damaged beyond repair. The internet was down, but luckily our solar panel continued to provide electricity so our radios worked, and we could communcate with the main station. Here is a graph of the winds towards the end of the storm. First day back with the penguins is today and they weathered the storm better than we did.

Leopard Seal

Jan 14, 2016

Leopard Seal. This seal is the penguin's main predator in the water. On land, seals are not able to move quickly and certainly not quick enough to catch a penguin. Here you see a penguin not even give this Leopard Seal a second look. He knows he is safe for now.

penguin molting

Jan 8, 2016

The Molt is On. This is not the oldest chick in our colony but the first one to start his final molt. You can just begin to see the adult white feathers starting to come through on his belly. He will be ready to be on his own when he has a full coat of water proof adult feathers, perhaps another 2 weeks.

Royal Navy

Jan 9, 2016

British Royal Navy. We rarely get visitors to Cape Royds, so when this ship showed up it was very exciting. First time in 80 years that the British Royal Navy has been in the Ross Sea area. They were doing some survey work and brought much of the comapny ashore to see the penguins and Shackleton's Hut. Ship's name is the Protector.

sleeping seal, weddell seal

Jan 6, 2016

Sleeping seal. These Weddell seals are all over McMurdo Sound. They breed here, have their pups here and some of them never leave, even in the winter. We call them ice slugs, because that is what they look like on the ice. This one seems to have fallen asleep in the water which I have never seen before. Normally they come up onto the ice to sleep. He was completely motionless for a very long time, NO he is not dead.

penguin chick

Jan 7, 2016

Chick Feathers. These chicks are about 3 weeks old and are starting to lose their light grey baby-chick feathers and grow a set of very dense brown wooly feathers. These wooly ones will keep them warm while both parents are out looking for food. You can see them just underneath the light grey ones, It won't be long.

Mt Erebus, volcano, Antarctic volcano

Jan 2, 2016

Mt Erebus. Mt Erebus is the backdrop for Cape Royds with constantly changing cloud formations. It is a very active volcano and although the plume is always there, we see it more on days with higher humidity. Today is one of those days.

killer whale, orca

Jan 5, 2016

Orca Whale in McMurdo Sound. These magnificant creatures come here for the large Antarctic toothfish, a big part of their diet. The fish live under the sea ice and as the ice breaks away the whales come in to feed. This one was close to the ice edge so we were able to get a picture of it.

sleeping_penguin, penguin_asleep

Dec 30, 2015

Rock for a Pillow. Many people ask me how penguins sleep. Mostly I see them standing up with their head tucked under their wing or laying on the ground or ice. I have never seen a penguin sleep like this. When I first saw him I thought he might be dead, but he is not. Nice rock pillow!

penguin food

Dec 31, 2015

What's for dinner? Part of our research is to determine what the penguins eat. We can not follow them out to the ocean, so we wait until they come ashore and feed their chicks. Usually it takes binoculars to see, but in this case the parent tried to give the chick WAY more food than it could handle and most of it went onto the ground. I was able to record krill for this nest.

two week old penguin

Dec 27, 2015

Two weeks old today. These are the chicks from our picture dated Dec 14. They were hatched on Dec 13 and are two weeks old today. Penguin chicks grow very fast as winter will be here soon and they need to be big enough to take care of themselves. If you would like to see how much food it takes to raise one penguin chick go HERE.

fat penguin chick

Dec 28, 2015

Just Fed This chick has just been fed. It takes 60 pounds of food to raise an Adelie penguin chick and they need to eat that much in about 2 months. They have big bellies and big appetites.

feeding a penguin chick

Dec 24, 2015

Chick Feeding. The hatching at Cape Royds is about half done. Everywhere there is new life which means lots of chicks that need to be fed.  Here a parent is feeding krill to her chick. She is careful to only give small amounts to this very young penguin. If you would like to see a short video of a chick getting fed go HERE

penguin hatch

Dec 26, 2015

Late Hatching. In a single nest the eggs are laid within a day or two of each other so hatch close together. When we see a week old chick and an unhatched egg we fear the second egg will not hatch for some reason. I will watch this nest to see what happens.

Dec 21, 2015

Penguin Head. A beautiful penguin head. Notice how small the feathers are, how many there are and the white ones around his eye. These birds have more feathers than any other bird in the world as they need to keep the bird warm and dry.

helo resupply

Dec 23, 2105

Many people ask me how we get supplies to our remote field camp at Cape Royds. We try to bring everything we need for the full 2.5 months at the start, but if we run out of food or fuel the helicopters bring it to us. Here is one way they deliver, with a sling load. They drop the boxes by our door and then leave.  If you would like to see a time lapse of another way to deliver supplies by helicopter at one of our field camps go HERE


Dec 19, 2015

Penguin Postcards One of several lovely postcards we receive from children all over the world. This one from Katie Galauska’s 4th/5th grade class in Nuiqsut, Alaska. These cards will be returned with the valuable Antarctic postmark. If you would like your class to get a postcard from Antarctica go HERE

Erebus ice tongue

Dec 20, 2015

The Erebus ice tongue is an extraordinary ice structure near us in McMurdo Sound. It is a glacier that comes down from  Mt. Erebus and is formed as you see it over hundreds of years of stress and friction between the glacier, the mountain and the sea ice. It is about 12 Km long and varies in thickness from 50 to 300 meters.

penguin bite

Dec 17, 2015

Too Close. Penguins are very territorial when on the nest. This bird was just walking through the colony and got too close to one of the adults on a nest with eggs. He is paying the price with a few sharp jabs and bites. Next time I think he may go around.  

penguin flag

Dec 18, 2015

Penguin Flag A beautiful flag from the students at Conshohocken Elementary School in Conshohocken Pennsylvania. This flag will fly at our penguin colony for two days and then be returned to the classroom with a certificate of bravery for withstanding the Antarctic winds.

Dec 13, 2015

The Scott Tent design was used by the early Antarctic Explorers. This is the one shared by Robert F. Scott and Ernest Shackleton during the Discovery Expedition of 1902. These tents have withstood the brutal storms of Antarctica over the years and mine (See Dec 12 journal entry) keeps me cozy at night. The one in this picture slept 3 men.

penguin chick

Dec 14, 2015

First Chick of the Season. Our first chick of the 2015 breeding season at Cape Royds hatched on Dec 13. Always a happy day here when new life begins. This chick is barely out of the egg and will be looking for its first meal very soon. The parents will need to bring back over 60 pounds of food for this chick before it is ready to be independent and fend for itself. If you would like to find how we know this you can go HERE.

penguin forest

Dec 11, 2015

Penguin Forest. Just like the birds in other areas live in trees, Adelie penguins live on the ice. Here is there home for the first few years of their lives as well as the rest of the year when they are not on the land breeding. Their food is in the water and they live on top of the ice floating as the winds and currents take them.

scott tent

Dec 12, 2015

Scott Tents. Many of you have asked where we sleep. Well this is where I sleep and no it is not heated. It is called a Scott Tent and the style has been used for 100 years.  See the photo of some early Antarctica explorers and their Scott tent in the picture for Dec 13.  It is made of heavy canvas with poles on the inside to hold it up. Notice the rocks we tie it down to and place on the skirt of the tent to keep the wind from blowing it away.

penguin nest

Dec 8, 2015

Skua Dinner. This Skua was successful in getting an egg from an Adelie penguin nest. It will carry the egg to a location a bit away from the colony and share the meal with its mate. It is sad for us to lose a penguin egg, but we are not allowed to interfere in any way .

Dec 9, 2015

Pony Lake. There is a fresh water lake in the middle of our penguin colony. Usually it is frozen and covered with snow. This year the temperatures have been warm and the lake is open. I was able to get this peaceful picture of the lake, penguins and the mountains of Antarctica in the background.

South Polar Skua

Dec 6, 2015

Skuas on the lookout. The Skuas are a constant presence at Cape Royds. They fly over the nesting areas looking for an opportunity to grab an unattended egg or chick.  These are aggressive predators and make their nests close to the penguins for easy access to their food supply during the penguin breeding season Nov-Jan

penguin fight

Dec 7, 2015

Yes penguins fight.  Here is the evidence.  Usually it is over the territory of the nesting site.  A bird who used ‘this’ nest last year arrives to find someone else there.  Of course there are plenty of nesting places and small rocks all over Cape Royds, but some birds want last year’s place and will fight to get it.  If there are already eggs, sometimes they are kicked out and lost.


Dec 3, 2015

Mis-placed Feathers or A Nice New Hat. Just like humans, not all penguins are exactly alike. This bird grew some white feathers where black ones normally are. It is fun to be different and this bird certainly is. We think he was young as he came one day and did not stay in the colony very long.

penguin nest

Dec 5, 2015

Biggest Nest of the Season. Adélie penguin nests vary in size and shape. Each bird makes their nest a little bit different. Some like big rocks, some use small. This nest is the largest nest in our breeding colony at Cape Royds this year.  How many rocks do you think there are?

penguin friend

Dec 1, 2015

New Best Friend. The penguins do not know us, they are not pets. They are wild birds and need to stay that way, but occasionally one of them will explore us, just like we explore them. This one was interested in my shoe laces.


Dec 2, 2015

The Other Bird. The Skuas are back too. This pair has built their nest and laid two eggs very close to the penguin colony. They prey on the penguin eggs and chicks, but today I saw them eat a fish. This made me happy, one more egg left to hatch.

Mt Erebus

Nov 29, 2015

Mt Erebus. This is the southern most active volcano in the world and is the backdrop for our research station at Cape Royds. It makes it's own weather and provides us with fantastic cloud formations, new ones everyday.


Nov 30, 2015

Marking the Nest. Dr. Katie Dugger, one of the scientists on our research team, marks the nest of a banded bird. This way we can follow the nest even when the banded bird is not there. Notice the bird on the nest does not even leave during this event, Katie is very careful not to disturb them and these penguins sit their nests very tightly.

snow petral

Nov 27, 2015

Our First Day Back. We arrived late at Cape Royds this year, it will be a short season for us. Most of the eggs have already been laid and most of the females are out foraging for food to replenish their body stores. We were greeted by this lovely Snow Petral. These birds ride the high winds around the cape and are hard to catch on film. It took 25 shots to get this one.

dirty penguin

Nov 28, 2015

Location, location, location. This penguin did not select wisely when he made his nest here. When penguins poop, they lift their tails and squirt the poop out as far as they can so as to keep their own nest clean. This bird is clearly in the pathway of several other bird's poop squirts.
Stories from the 2014-2015 Adelie Penguin breeding season at Cape Royds, Antarctica.

penguin flag

Jan 18, 2015

Tower Hill School in Wilmington Delaware sent this terrific flag for us to fly in front of the penguins. We loved the fact that is was designed by the children. It has been signed and sent back with a certificate to show it traveled all the way to Antarctica and back to the school. If you would like to see other flags that have flown at Cape Royds go HERE

penguin molting

Jan 19, 2015

The Season is Over. Most of the chicks have started to molt and will be on their way out to the ocean in the next two weeks, Our time is done and we are moving back to McMurdo Research Station and then home to California. it has been a great season, we have learned new information about the penguins and will look to return next year. Thank you for following along with our adventures.

Mt Erebus

Jan 16, 2015

Mt Erebus. Behind the penguin colony at Cape Royds stands the active volcano Mt Erebus. The weather on this volcano changes constantly. Mt Erebus can make it's own weather and we caught a lensticular cloud formation last night.

scott tent

Jan 17, 2015

Almost time to say good bye. We have had several days of snow, even though most of it did not stick. The chicks are wet and muddy, we are dirty and cold and ready to head to McMurdo research station for a long overdue shower. Tomorrow we pull down the tents, our time with the penguins is over. These Scott tents have been used in Antarctica for over 100 years and are still the best design to withstand the fierce storms. We have slept in these for over 2 months.

penguin chick

Jan 14, 2015

Cold, Wet, Dirty. It has been snowing lightly at Cape Royds for the past two days and some of the birds are getting wet as the snow melts on their warm bodies and on the ground. This one looks particularly unhappy. Although the chick feathers are very dense and keep the chick warm, they are not waterproof so getting wet is a problem and some chicks may be getting cold.

penguin feathers

Jan 15, 2015

Bad Hair Day. Combination of wet snow and chick molting makes for fun looks. This Adélie penguin has started to grow adult feathers, but still has most of his chick down. You can see he will have a white chin which is different than the adults and is how we can tell a yearly bird if they come into the colony next season. We will call him 'Spike' for now.

crab eater seal

Jan 12, 2015

Crabeater Seal. These crabeater seals are not as common as the Weddell seals here at Cape Royds, but this one came for a couple of days to visit and enjoy our nice comfortable ice. They are lighter in color and have a different shape to their heads, we can see the difference easily from the colony.

krill for dinner

Jan 13, 2015

Krill for Dinner. The only way we know what the penguins are eating is by watching what they feed the chicks. Part of our job is to sit on a rock and wait for this to happen and then mark krill or fish in our notebooks. In this case you can see it is krill, pink with dark spots which are the krill's eyes.

penguin molt

Jan 10, 2015

Molt in On. This is not the oldest chick in the colony, and the oldest chick has not started to molt yet. What controls the start of molting is still a mystery, but these birds will not be able to feed on their own or even enter the water until they have completely shed their chick down for adult feathers.

penguin chick

Jan 11, 2015

Hard to Feed. These chicks are getting so big it is hard for the parents to feed them. To get the food into the mouth of this chick required some help from a rock. The parents need to be above the chick's mouth to regurgitate the food effectively.

penguin chick

Jan 8, 2015

Pile-o-Chicks. The Adelie Chicks at Cape Royds are growing fast and their need for food is great. Both parents are out gathering food to feed them so these chicks huddle together in a creche which helps keep them warm and provides some portection from the SKuas.

fat penguin chick

Jan 9, 2015

Well Fed Chick. Not all our chicks at Cape Royds are this well fed, but we are happy when we see this. It means this chick will be ready to be on his own in about 2 weeks and have the weight to survive the winter which i will be starting in about a month. It takes about 60 pounds of food to raise one Adelie penguin chick. If you would like to know how we know that go HERE.


Jan 6, 2015

Skua Chick and Mom. A Skua mom keeps her chicks warm under her wing rather than under her body like the penguins. This chick has poked his head out of the wing to view the world. There is only one chick in this nest. The Skuas nests are very close to the penguins for easy access to their food.

penguin swimming

Jan 7, 2015

Penguins Swimming. These penguins fly through the water in the same way other birds fly through the air. They do not use their feet to paddle like a duck, instead the action of their wings propels them. Tonight the penguins are feeding in a crack near the colony, lots of food and no predators.

ice crack

Jan 4, 2105

Ice Crack off Cape Royds. This crack has been developing over the last couple of weeks. The penguins have been using it to feed in, but we are hoping to see whales soon. The whales will use these cracks to reach feeding grounds they otherwise could not get to from the ice edge. Note the open water in the background.

penguin flag

Jan 5. 2015

Penguin Postcards. We have received over 2000 hand made penguin postcards from children all across the country. All of them are on their way back to these classrooms and more are coming in. We particularly liked this one from Trinity School in Atlanta, Georgia. If you would like to see more penguin art made by children go HERE


Jan 2, 2015

Skua Chick. The South Polar Skua here at Cape Royds eat mainly penguin eggs and penguin chicks. They have their own chicks to feed, and here is one. He is about a week old.This Skua nest is about 200 feet away from the nearest penguin nest.

penguin crech

Jan 3, 2015

Three's a crowd update. We last checked on this family Dec 30. It's been five days and the adults are still caring for all three. Clearly one is smaller than his nest mates but is getting some food. We will check on them in a few more days.


Dec 31, 2014

Disabled, but not Unabled too. This bird either had an accident or was hatched this way, we do not know. But in this case disabled is clearly NOT unable. He has plenty of fat on him so is eating well and here in the colony so he can navigate, swim long distances, and climb ice and rocks. These are sturdy birds and not much will keep them down. We wish him well in the New Year and hope to see him next season.

Dec 31, 2104

Disabled, but not Unabled. This bird either had an accident or was hatched this way, we do not know. But in this case disabled is clearly NOT unable. He has plenty of fat on him so is eating well and here in the colony so he can navigate, swim long distances, and climb ice and rocks. These are sturdy birds and not much will keep them down. We wish him well in the New Year and hope to see him next season.

penguin crech

Dec 30, 2014

Three's a Crowd. This penguin adult has adopted a stray chick. We do not know where the chick came from, but are glad he found a home. Stray chicks lost in a colony will be attacked by other adults in the area and many do not survive. This one is lucky.

Dec 28, 2014

Sleeping Penguin. People often ask us how penguins sleep. Most of time they lay with their feet tucked under them, nice and tidy, or stand with their beak under the wing. In this case, the penguin went spread eagle and flat. He must have been very tired.

curious penguin

Dec 27, 2014

Curious Penguin. If you stand or sit still, these penguins will come up to you. Today I was standing and taking pictures when I felt a tug at my pants. First my pants then my shoelaces, this penguin was exploring me. Unfortunately part of his 'play' was to see how solid this leg was and I got bit hard. Playful or not that was the end and I moved my foot which made him leave. DId I mention I love my job!

penguin tracks

Dec 26, 2104

Tracks on the Ice. These tracks are made from Adelie penguins slidding on their bellies. They can travel faster this way and it takes less energy. We call it toboggoning. You can see a short video of penguins walking, swimming and toboggoning HERE.
  Merry Christmas! No picture today

penguin feeding

Dec 24, 2014

Penguin Feeding. Part of our job here at Cape Royds is to watch what the parents are feeding their chicks. Click HERE to watch a penguin chick get a meal.

camp dinner

Dec 22, 2014

Everything Tastes Good When You are Camping. Many people ask us what we eat during the 2.5 months we live in the tent at Cape Royds. Most of the food is frozen or canned but sometimes people will send us some fresh fruit, a real treat. We made a pie out of some apples that were sent to us using a fry pan and the camp stove. No oven here ! Crust was made from pancake mix and no whipped cream for the top, but it was yummy.

small egg

Dec 20, 2014

This egg will not hatch. Hatching is in full swing here at Cape Royds and we check many of the nests daily to see what's happening. This egg is one third the size of a normal Adelie penguin egg and will not hatch. We are curious as to what is inside, just a yoke, yoke and white, just white? If this egg becomes abandon we will open it up and see.


Dec 19, 2014

High Flyers. This pair of Skua are flying over their territory at Cape Royds. These birds establish a territory within the penguin colony and will defend it against other Skua who may try to fly in and hunt for eggs or chicks. Not too far away from here they have a nest with 1 egg in it. They leave the nest for short periods of time to hunt together.

Dec 18, 2014

The Colors of Antarctica. This is the white continent. They call it that because 98% of it is covered in snow or ice. You add Adélie penguins and a splash of black appears now and then. No greens, no yellows, red or orange. No purple or brown. Although you may say it is a colorless place, look at the above picture and count how many shades of white you see. The colors of Antarctica abound. If you would like to see more pictures of Antarctic landscapes go HERE.

penguin color variation

Dec 17, 2014

Color Variation. Adélie chicks range in color from silver, to light gray, to chocolate, to dark black. However it is rare to see such a variation in the same nest as you see here. No matter how they begin their lives, in 3 weeks they will all be a wooly dark brown and we will have trouble telling them apart. After they molt to their adult feathers it is impossible to tell one from the other.

Dec 16, 2014

Nest too Small. It's good idea for penguins to make a nest in the rocks which help protect from Skua attacks. But being able to fit in the nest would also be a good idea. This penguin forgot to measure the nest for comfort before building his pile of rocks. Imagine wearing shoes 2 sizes too small for a whole month. I wonder how this penguin feels?

pengui nedgehog

Dec 15, 2014

Penguin Hedgehog. When the sun is out and the wind does not blow, it can get warm here, for a penguin. To keep cool, these birds fluff the feathers to let heat escape from their body. Here you see one such penguin. Today is a warm -2oC and he has fluffed himself up to control his body temperature. Not sure he is comfortable, but he reminded me of a hedghog.

penguin chick

Dec 14, 2014

Staying Warm. This one day old Adélie Penguin chick has learned how to stay warm. Notice how his feet are on the warm feet of his parents, and he has his back nestled in the adult's brood patch. Also notice his full tummy. His has just finished a meal of krill, one of many yet to come. It will take 60 pounds of food to raise this chick. How do we know? Go HERE to find out.


Dec 13, 2104

Last of the calm days. Chicks are starting to hatch here at Cape Royds. We have not seen any chicks in this group yet, but know it will be soon. These are the last quiet days in the colony. Adults have been taking 14 days or longer for a foraging trip, now it will be much more frequent. The food demand of these chicks is high. If you want to see how much then need and how we know go HERE.

penguin chick

Dec 14, 2014

Staying Warm. This one day old Adélie Penguin chick has learned how to stay warm. Notice how his feet are on the warm feet of his parents, and he has his back nestled in the adult's brood patch. Also notice his full tummy. His has just finished a meal of krill, one of many yet to come. It will take 60 pounds of food to raise this chick. How do we know? Go HERE to find out.

penguin chick

Dec 11, 2104

HAPPY DAY! Our first chick of the season. The chick is now free of the egg and getting his first peek of the world. What a world he has been born into, the harshest place on Earth. Many of the chicks that will hatch in the next few weeks will not make it, we hope this one does. He has a nest mate on the way as well. Adelie penguins are well adapted to surviving and thriving in this environment. If you would like to see how Adelie penguins are adapted to living in Antarctica go HERE.

Dec 12, 2014

HAPPY DAY! Our first penguin family of the season. Two big chicks ready to take on the world. The parent has already fed them once so things are looking good for these little ones. It won't be long before the neighboring nests will have chicks and then the noise and chaos level of this colony will increase.

We love this time of the breeding season, so much fun to watch new life appear.

working with penguins

Dec 9, 2014

Field Work. Many people have asked us about our work at Cape Royds. This is Megan Elrod, one of the field biologists and bird experts. Most of the day is spent hunting for banded birds throughout the colony and then observing their and other penguin behaviour. Megan records her observations in a small field notebook during the day, then transfers the information to the computer data base at night. It is long days, but she loves her work.

first chick

Dec 10, 2014

Oh HAPPY DAY! Our first chick of the season. This one is taking a long time to hatch, but that is not uncommon. I have waited over 2 hours to see if he will break free of the shell, but have given up and will come back tomorrow. We are so excited to record this day and have new life around us in the colony.

ice plates

Dec 7, 2014

Sea Ice Patterns.These patterns in the sea ice are made when one layer of ice gets pushed over another. The symmetry of the breaks and plates is remarkablel. As the ice thickens, the lines will remain, and new ones will appear as the winds, tides and currents push, pull and stress the ice in many directions. Antarctica is a beautiful place even if we only have 2 colors.

penguin neighbors

Dec 8, 2014

You know you're too close when. . . . Adélie Penguins breed in small groups and their nests are about 1 meter apart center to center. The closeness of neighbors helps fend off Skua attacks, but being too close means you get pooped on. Since these penguins do not like to foul their own nests they lift their tail and squirt poop as far as they can. In this case it landed on the neighbor's back. It will stay there until this bird goes back to the sea for feeding, maybe several days.

penguin nest

Dec 5, 2014

Nest Design. Even in the same nesting area with the same soruce of rocks, penguins have their own preferences and what is the best rocks for a nest. One has chosen large rocks and the other small ones. What drives them to make these choices? Another mystery yet to be solved.

penguin nest

Dec 6, 2104

Lost Nest. This nest is lost. The male waited as long as he could for the female to return, but he became too hungry and had to return to the ocean for food. He got up and walked away. These birds will not sacrifice themselves for the eggs. In minutes, the eggs will be taken by the Skuas, but even faster were the neighbors taking the rocks. One of our males has been on his nest for over a month with out food or water. We hope his mate returns soon. Go HERE to see his pictures.

penguin postcard

Dec 3, 2014

Postcards from Penguin Scientists. The penguin researchers at Kuss Middle School in Falls River MA sent us this and many more penguin postcards which they designed. We will send them back with the official Antarctic postmark stamped on them. If you would like your class to get a postcard from Antarctica go HERE for detalis. Go HERE to see postcards from children all over the country.

pengui brood patch

Dec 4, 2014

The Brood Pouch. Adélie penguins have the most feathers per square inch than any bird, except for this one place on their body where they hold the eggs. It is just big enough for the two eggs to stay close to the bird's warm. The adult holds the eggs on their feet and wraps the feathers around it. If you would like to see more pictures of penguin adaptations go HERE.

two penguins

Dec 1, 2014

Compare These Penguins. An Emperor penguin and Adélie penguin out on the sea ice. Both these birds have so much in common, but are so different. Emperors can weigh from 50-90 lbs, lay only one egg in May or early June and carry it on their feet. The egg takes 64 days to hatch and the chicks fledge in December. Adelie weigh 12-15 lbs, lay two eggs in a nest of rocks in mid November. The egg takes 32 days to hatch and about 50 days for the chick to fledge in late January.

Skua food

Dec 2, 2014

Skua Food. This is the REAL Skua food, fish, and the food we wish the Skuas would eat rather than penguin eggs. The open ocean is not far and this male has brought back a meal for his mate. It did not take long for them to share this fish.

ice forms

Nov 29, 2014

New Ice Forms. This is how new ice can form and it is called pancake ice. Because of the movement of the water the round shapes form as the plates bumb into each other. The largest here is about 2 feet across. After a few days this group was completely solid and it was hard to tell where the idividual rounds were.

penguin flag

Nov 30, 2014

School Flag. Thank you to the students in Stacie Moore’s class at Belvidere Elementary School in Grandview Missouri. This proud flag flew at Cape Royds Adélie breeding colony until the winds got too strong and we had to retrieve it. It is now on its way back to their classroom. If you would like to send us a flag to fly at the colony go HERE for detail. Go HERE to see flags that have flown in Antarctica from schools all over the country.

ice patterns

Nov 27, 2014

Many Kinds of Ice.   Antarctica is full of ice, but not all ice is the same. This season I will showcase several different ice forms.  This is ‘new ice’, ice just forming over the surface of the ocean, it is very thin.  When the wind blows, the ice cracks and sheets of  this ice raft onto other sheets of ice causing this pattern.


Nov 28, 2014

Skua Dinner These Skuas are wily predators, it seems they decide on a target nest, go after it, grab the egg and then settle into eating. This pair just finished sharing this egg and have settled down for an after dinner rest. Have not seen this pair create a nest yet, although other Skua teams in the area have built their nests and are well on their way to creating a Skua family.

penguin in a storm

Nov 25, 2014

Storm Aftermath. The storm finally broke last night, and I went down to see the penguins. These birds will not leave the nest while on an egg and you can see this one allowed the snow to build up around her.    Adult penguins stay warm and dry even while covered in snow, but the eggs need to be kept in the brood patch or they will freeze very quickly. Looks like this penguin did not move during the entire storm.


Nov 26, 2014

Skuas are Back.   Now that the eggs are being laid at Cape Royds, the Skuas are back.  These birds are looking for easy meals by stealing eggs out from under the penguins.  Skuas work in pairs as you see here, one will distract the nesting penguin, the other will sneak in and grab the egg.  It is hard for us to watch this, but we are not allowed to interfere. If you would like to see more about penguin predation go HERE

ice pool

Nov 23, 2014

Cape Royds Swimming Pool. This large crack in the ice near Cape Royds has turned into a pool. Seals will use this pool to come out of the water and rest on the ice. Today there are none, but we check daily. The water temperature is -1.6oC, below the freezing point of fresh water. Ocean water freezing at a lower temperature because of the salt and other dissoved minerals.

Antarctic snow storm

Nov 24, 2014

Storm day. Today we are tent-bound and will not go outside. Horizontal snow, 40mph winds and zero visibility. This is a much stronger storm than the first. We have lost a tent, had to dig our way out of the hut to use the bathroom, and have not left this hut for over 36 hours. Although we did not get down to see the penguins today we know they are doing just fine. They have many adaptations that keep them warm and dry during these storms. If you would like to read more about penguin adaptations go HERE

first snw

Nov 21, 2014

First Snow Storm. The results of our first snow storm of the 2014-15 season. Only a few inches, but it makes everything look clean and white. These storms do not bother the penguins, they are sturdy birds and used to the harsh conditions of Antarctica. Snow stroms are common here even though it is summertime in Antarctica.

penguin nest

Nov 22, 2014

Classroom Penguin Project. This is a model of our penguin colony made by the 1st grade students in Mrs. Simone's art class at Jackson School, Newton, MA. Thank you for sharing your project with us. We're happy to know that students enjoy learning about penguins.

penguin camp

Nov 19, 2014

Cape Royds Front Door. Access to the breeding colony at Cape Royds is at the bottom of these cliffs. First penguins must walk across a few miles of frozen ocean, then climb over a pile of jumbled ice blocks, then scale the rocky banks. Their strong legs and feet make this possible. If you would like to learn more about how the penguin's body is adapted to this harsh environment go HERE.

emperor penguins

Nov 20, 2014

The Other Penguins. Adélie Penguins are not the only ones at Cape Royds. Although these Emperors do not breed here, they wander into the colony almost on a daily baisis. Today about 18 came by for a look at the Cape, a quick visit and to climb the ice. These birds can dive up to 500 meters for food and hold their breath for 22 min. They are the largest penguins in the world.

antarctic radio staion

Nov 17, 2014

Radio Station in Antarctica. Our small town of McMurdo has it's own radio and TV station. People volunteer to be the music DJ and various departments select the movies for the week.

piston bully

Nov 18, 2014

Travel on the ice. This piston bully is well sutied to travel over ice or snow. Notice the large tracks instead of wheels. Passengers keep warm in the compartment and gear goes on the top rack. These vehicles do not go fast, but they can travel over cracks in the ice and move easily when the weather is bad. Many have GPS units which allow them to follow a road even in a blizzard when the driver can not see.

food line

Nov 15, 2014

1000 people to feed. Today there are almot 1000 people working at McMurdo Resarch Station. Breakfast, lunch, dinner plus a midnight dinner for night shift workers is served daily in the galley. A 24 hour pizza counter is a popular place for a hot snack on the go. The cooks work hard to make meals interesting, varied and nutritious.

antarctic galley

Nov 16, 2014

Meal time. This room is the most popular place on station. Here everyone gathers for meals 3 times a day. It's great to get out of the cold, put something hot in out stomachs, visit with friends and relax. Meals are served in a 2 hour window, but you can always get tea, coffee, pizza, cookies, or make a sandwich to go.

seal camp

Nov 13, 2014

Penguins aren't the only ones. This science camp is on the sea ice near an island called Big Razorback. Weddell seals come here to have their pups safe from the open ocean and large predators such as Orcas and leopard seals. This research group counts, bands and records the history of these seal families.


Nov 14, 2104

Stuck in McMurdo. We are staying at McMurdo Research Station waiting our turn for camp put in at Cape Royds. Here are some pictures showing what it is like to live here. This Delta vehicle has large tires so it can travel over snow and ice. The passengers sit in the back compartment and although It's a slow rough ride, we get there safely.

cape royds

Nov 11, 2014

Cape Royds research staion. This is how our camp winters over. The tents, solar panels, equipment and tent supplies are boxed and strapped down to withstand the fierce winds. I went to see if everything survived the winter and was glad to see it had.

cape royds

Nov 12, 2014

Cape Royds research staion. This is how our camp looks all set up and ready for us to move in. It will be our home for 2 months as we monitor the Adélie penguins at Cape Royds.

ice travel

Nov 9, 2014

How we roll to Royds. Early in the season we ride out to Cape Royds over the sea ice. Right now the ice is about 6ft thick so very safe. Here you see Barnes glacier as it comes off of Mt Erebus and extends into the ocean.


Nov 10, 2014

Barnes Glacier. This glacier extends into the ocean as it comes off Mt Erebus. Right now the ocean is frozen, but cracks occur near the base of the glacier where seals haul out to rest. Here you can see two seals who use these cracks to access the ocean and their food.

penguin nest

Nov 7, 2014

Well Built Nest. This male Adélie penguin has built a beautiful nest out of small stones. He is hoping to attract a female who will be his mate and raise chicks. The females are coming ashore now.

first egg

Nov 8, 2014

First Egg of the Season. This is the first egg of the 2014-2015 Adelie breeding season at Cape Royds. We are excited to see this. Adelie penguins lay two eggs and many of the parents will raise both chicks to maturity. It will take over 60 lbs of food to raise each chick so parents will be busy once the chicks hatch. If you want to know how we know this go HERE.


Nov 5, 2014

First Orcas of the Season. Part of our work is to keep an eye out for Orcas. These whales come to the ice edge in search of food. The large Antarctic Toothfish live under the ice near the bottom of the ocean so the whales dive under the ice looking for them.

emperors on the ice

Nov 6, 2014

Emperors at the Ice Edge. These amazing birds are the largest penguins in the world standing over a meter tall. Here you see them resting on the ice with a hole nearby for easy access to the ocean and their food. They can dive over 500 meters and can hold their breath up to 22 min while they search for fish and krill.

McMurdo Research Station

Nov 3, 2014

McMurdo Research Station. This remote 'town' on Ross Island, is the largest of the three US stations here in Antarctica. To run and maintain the station takes about 600 people in various jobs. Cooks, plumbers, radio operators, mechanics, firemen, shuttle drivers and even someone who cuts hair. This is a busy place.

Mcmurdo sound

Nov 4, 2014

Sea Ice Conditions. The satelite image shows the current sea ice conditions around our two penguin colonies. This is a good year as the open ocean is close. Our birds will not have to walk very far to get to their nesting ground or go far for food when they are raising the chicks. Click on the image to see a large versio.

transport ot Antarctica

Nov 1, 2014

Transport to Antarctica. Today we fly in a C-17 military cargo plane from Christchurch, New Zealand to Antarctica. The people are cargo just like the container full of machine parts you see in the picture. No inflight movies, meals, drinks or even windows on this plane. The flight takes 5 hours.


Nov 2, 2014

Land on the Ice. Our plane lands on the Ross Ice Shelf at the Pegasus Runway. It takes a large crew of dedicated people to prepare and maintain this remote airport so we can come to Antarctica and do our science.
Stories from the 2013-2014 Adelie Penguin breeding season at Cape Royds, Antarctica.

penguin chick

Jan 17, 2014

Biggest Chick. Although this is not one of our chicks, it was the biggest chick in the colony on our last day at Cape Royds. You can see he has started to molt from the wooly chick feathers into the waterproof adult feathers. Soon he will be able to stay warm and dry in the ocean and get his own food

penguin chick

Jan 18, 2014

Smallest Chick. Although this is not one of our chicks, it was the smallest chick in the colony on our last day at Cape Royds. You can see the difference between this chick and the one to the left. This chick is getting fed, but is not growing well. We wish him the best and hope he makes it.

penguin family

Jan 15, 2014

Mothers everywhere are good pillows! It's universal, mothers are always good as a pillow. Growing up is hard work, and sometimes you just need to have some comfort. This chick knew where to get it.


Jan 16, 2014

Lost and Found. This is a small chick compared to the ones around him. He got pushed out of the group and wandered outside the safety of the crowd. I sat there for several minutes as he was vulnerable to attack by the Skuas. Finally an adult came and talked him back into the creche.

penguin chick

Jan 13, 2014

Teenagers can sleep anywhere!! Three week old chick are in the teenager stage of development, mostly they eat and sleep. This one found a place on top of a rock with his head on the ground near the parent's feet. Only a penguin chick would be comfortable sleeping like this.


Jan 14, 2014

Penguin Lovers, it's our chance!! NASA has a new mission and they need a name for their penguin mascot. Come up with a name, and a story why this name is a good one, and submit it before March 1, 2014. Go HERE for details


Jan 11, 2014

The Crèche is on. Some chicks have already formed creches. Both parents are out gathering food for these fast growing chicks so the chicks huddle together to keep warm and help fend off the Skuas. When an adult comes close, fresh from the ocean, these chicks will beg for food. It is up to the adult to identify their own chicks in this crowd and feed only them.

Skua chick

Jan 12, 2014

Penguins aren't the only ones!! This young Skua chick lives close to the penguin colony where both parents are able to bring it food everyday. It too is growing fast and will need to develop adult feathers (plumage) before the short breeding season at Cape Royds is over and winter sets in.

penguin chick

Jan 9, 2014

One Month Old. This is our first born one month later. Other chicks around him may be larger, but notice how long his wings are. He is just starting to develop adult feathers under his wings which means he is maturing. Two more weeks and he will be on his own. The parent is close by, but it takes two busy birds to feed this big chick so they are out getting food most of the time.

cape royds

Jan 10, 2014

What's in your driveway?. This is how we get around at Cape Royds. The sea ice is gone, snow machines are not an options. If we need to go someplace where we can't walk, we call the helicopters and they come for us. In Antarctica the helicopters are run by Petroleum Helicopter Inc (PHI) and they take very good care of us. What's in your driveway?


Jan 7, 2014

South Polar Skua. This bird is a scavenger and predator. With a range of open water there are sightings along the eastern and western US in summer. Normally breeds in the southern hemisphere and many are summer (Nov-Feb) residents here on Ross Island raising their chicks along with the penguins.

band searching

Jan 8, 2013

Working in the Colony. Megan searches for banded birds in one of the breeding groups at Cape Royds. It requires patience and stealth movement among the nesting birds. The metal bands are around the left wing and have a number etched in them. Megan reads the number with her binoculars and records what the bird is doing. We band the birds as chicks and follow their lives each year when they return.

penguin chick

Jan 5, 2014

Well fed chick. Food is plentiful in the ocean this year and penguin parents are able to provide for their chicks. We know this because the chicks have big bellies like this one and are growing fast.

crabeater seal

Jan 6, 2014

Crabeater Seal. These are the most commom seal in Antarctica, numbering in the millions, but we rarely see them at Cape Royds. These large seals eat krill, can weigh up to 500 pounds and live for 40 years. This one stayed only one day and had lost one of his flippers, probably a bite from a predator.

penguin chicks

Jan 3, 2014

Three's company. Three chicks is a lot of mouths to feed. We do not think this pair laid three eggs, more likely one wandered in from another nest. It seems the adults are feeding all three, but we will keep our eye on this nest to make sure. Hopefully there is enough food to go around.


Jan 4, 2014

Lost egg. This egg did not hatch on time and we have been worried about it for sometime. Today the chick was too big for the parent to keep both the egg and the chick in the nest. It rolled out and 30 sec after I took this picture a Skua swooped in to take his prize. This is not uncommon, there are several nests with unhatched eggs in them. I think their fate will be the same as this one.

penguin chick

Jan 1, 2014

3 weeks old. This is the oldest chick in the colony, just over 3 weeks. He has multiplied his birth weight over 20 times in those 23 days, a very rapid growth rate. In a few more days we may see the signs of his developing the adult feathers that will protect him in the water so he can be on his own for food. When that happens, this chicks will be fledged.

penguin chicks

Jan 2, 2014

Too big for the nest. These chicks have out grown their home and although the adult is nearby she can no longer sit over them. The pile of rocks is scattered, the nest is gone. Both of these chicks are fat and growing well, these parents are good providers.

penguin nests

Dec 30, 2014

20 days later. This is the same group as our picture on Dec 9 and 19. You can see it is no longer quiet time in the colony. Almost all the eggs have hatched, there are many adults standing around, lots of noise and many birds coming and going. Chicks are growing, the activity level is increasing. Check back in 10 days to see the difference.

wall of ice

Dec 31, 2013

Wall of Ice. As the snow melts then freezes from the rocks above the sea ice it forms these magnificatn icicles. This wall of ice went on for 30 yds in each direction. The space behind the huge icicles is a cave and very cold.


Dec 28, 2013

Can you do this? Penguins are very agile and strong. Since they do not have hands, they use their feet to scratch the hard to reach places like behind their ears.

penguin flying

Dec 29, 2013

Can you do this? Penguins are very agile and strong. Getting from one ice floe to another requires strong legs and a good landing plan. This bird landed on his belly and slid into the ocean.

penguin swimming

Dec 26, 2013

Penguin in Flight. Before they were swimmers, penguins were flyers. They use the same motion with their wings (called flippers) in the water as other birds do in the air and have very powerful chest muscles to propel them. Here you can see how they streamline their bodies to decrease resistance in the water. They are air breathers just like you and me, but can hold their breath up to 5 minutes.

2 week old penguin

Dec 27, 2013

Two Weeks Old. This is the only chick left in our first nest of the season (see Dec 11 and 18 entries). The other chick was taken by the Skua, they have chicks to feed too. Adelie penguins grow fast and the parents must bring about a pound of food a day to this hungry bird. How do we know this? Go HERE

penguin feathers

Dec 24, 2013

Feathers. Penguin feathers need to keep these birds both warm and dry. Here you can see the dense and hard center shaft of the feather which is visible on the bird, densely packed and holds out the water. Surrounding the center are many downy extensions which are against the bird's body and help keep them warm. If you would like to learn more about penguin feathers go HERE.

sea ice

Dec 25, 2013

Sea Ice. This is McMurdo Sound, early December. Frozen sea ice about 4-6 ft thick is used by seals to rest on, fish to hide under, and humans to land planes on. The freezing of this expanse along with the rest of the sea ice around Antarctica and subsequent thawing in the summer is the largest seasonal event in the world.

still waters

Dec 22, 2013

Still Waters. The winds in Antarctica are legendary, and it is rarely calm at Cape Royds, but today the air and the waters were still. Here you see a mirror reflection of a small ice berg off the penguin beach. The ocean is glass, the air is quiet, only the penguins are busy. Chicks are hatching and gathering food is at a critcal stage.

penguin hatching

Dec 23, 2013

Hatching Penguin Chick.This Adelie Pengun chick is about 1 minute old. They emerge from the egg tired, wet, hungry and vulnerable. Parents must keep the chicks in the brood patch for several days until they have enough feathers to keep themselves warm. Feeding must start immediately as there is not much time for these chicks to grow up.

penguin nestpenguin nest

Dec 20, 2013

DIfferent Nests for Different Birds. Not all penguin nests are alike. Here are two very different styles. One used large rocks and built a large pile, the other has barely made a nest at all, mostly scratched out a little space in the layer of small rocks that cover this nesting area. The purpose of the nest is to keep the eggs from rolling away, so far so good on both nests.

sleeping penguin

Dec 21, 2013

Sleeping Penguin. Many people ask me how penguins sleep. This is one way. They put their bill under the wing and close their eyes, but stay standing. They also lay down on the ice or rocks and pull their feet in under their body to stay warm.

one week old penguin chicks

Dec 18, 2013

One Week Old. Check back to the Journal entry from Dec 11. These are the same chicks only one week later. Adelie Penguin chicks grow fast. If you would like to watch other chicks grow on a daily basis, go HERE. Pictures are live Nov-Jan every year.

penguin nesting

Dec 19, 2013

10 days later. This is the same group as our picture on Dec 9. You can see it is no longer quiet time in the colony. At least 5 of the nests here have chicks, there are many adults standing around, lots of noise and many birds coming and going. As the chicks grow the activity level will increase, check back in 10 days to see the difference.


Dec 16, 2013

Tired of Sitting. This adult penguin has 2 eggs in the nest and has been here a very long time, perhaps 3 weeks or more. As long as it is on the nest the bird does not eat or drink. The bird will brood the eggs until it can no longer go without food and water, but it will not sacrifice itself for the eggs. We will watch this nest for the next few days and hope the mate returns.


Dec 17, 2013

Nap Time. Adelie Penguin chicks are eating machines and after all that eating, there is nothing like a good nap. In 50 days they will multiply their birthweight by 30 and it takes about 24 kg (60 pounds) of food to make that happen. How do we know this? Go HERE to find out.

penguin jump

Dec14, 2013

Off We Go! Adelie Penguins are timid when they enter the water. Their main predator, the Leopard Seal, waits under the ice for these birds to jump in. Today there are no Leopard Seals in the area so these penguins are safe.

ice berg

Dec 15, 2015

Ice Berg. This large iceberg (about 11 mi by 7 mi) has been floating around our area since we arrived. We keep hoping it will come closer, but then worry if it does it interfer with the penguin's feeding grounds. Today we went out for a closer look. What you see above the water is only 10% of the iceberg, and what we see is about 200 feet tall!

brood patch

Dec 12, 2013

The brood patch is the only place on the penguin’s body that is not covered with feathers.  The space is just big enough to fit two eggs, as the eggs need to be against the penguin’s skin to stay warm. The pink is caused by the large amount of warm blood near the skin’s surface which does the warming.  The feathers wrap around the eggs to hold in the warmth.


Dec 13, 2013

Weddell seals frequently haul out on the ice near Cape Royds to rest. Today there were 9 of them.  They eat fish so do not bother the penguins and may spend several days here before moving on.   This one is young and only about half the size of a fully grown adult.  


Dec 10, 2013

Lion and Lamb.  This Skua is the only predator the penguins need to fear on land. They take first the eggs and then the chicks.   Normally when the Skuas get too close, the penguins will chase them off, try to bite them or beat them with their flippers. Today these two birds are sitting very close together in peace. Perhaps the penguin senses the Skua is not hungry.

penguin chicks

Dec 11, 2013

First chicks of the season, always a banner day for us.  When I found this nest it already had two chicks. Last year the first chicks were found on Dec 13, so a few days later than this year.  We hope this will be a good season to raise chicks.   I will watch this nest every few days to see how they grow.


Dec 8, 2013

Nest Exchange. This is the female from Nest #5 (band #5176). She has been on the nest for a long time without food or water and I am sure, very hungry.  The male returned today and took over brooding the nest.   I took this picture of her out on the sea ice as she was headed to feed. How long do you think she will be gone?  Check Nest #5 in a few days to see if you are right.

penguin colony

Dec 9, 2013

Quiet Time.  These are the last days of quiet time in the colony. The brooding mates are sitting silently on the nests keeping the eggs warm, the others are out feeding.  Any day now we will start to see chicks hatch and then the work begins.  The activity level will go up, parents will be going for food more frequently and there will be many more birds in the colony. I will take this same picture in 10 days to see the difference.

Skua kitchen

Dec 6, 2013

Skua Kitchen.  The Skuas are back at Cape Royds too. They know when the breeding season begins for Adelie Penguins at Cape Royds and set up territories in the colony.  A mated pair of Skuas will defend their ‘eating’ territory from other Skuas.  Here you see the remains of several Skua meals, probably the same Skua pair.  How many eggs do you see?


Dec 7, 2013

McMurdo Research Station. This small town of about 800 people supports a large percent of the US Science effort in Antarctica.  The blue building in the center is our favorite because that is where we eat.  In addition to the science teams there are carpenters, plumbers, electricians, shuttle drivers, radio operators, medical staff, cooks, mechanics and even a lady who cuts hair. Lots of fun jobs for everyone. You will notice there is nothing green, no trees, no bushes, no grass, no plants of any kind, only ice and rock.

ice caves'

Dec 4, 2013

Ice Caves.  When a glacier moves over land that is not flat, it bends and buckles creating openings called crevasses. Some of the openings are large enough and safe to climb into, we call these ice caves.  The ice here is 100’s of thousands of years old and a deep blue color.  The warmer air and sunshine causes some melting and then refreezing to create extraordinary icicles hanging from the roof.

penguin eggs

Dec 5, 2013

Young Bird.  We are seeing events like this in the colony this season.  A pair has created a good nest, laid two eggs then seems to abandon them.  We do not know if the bird in the picture is the parent of these eggs, but probably. For some reason the bird is not tending the eggs, perhaps they are too young and lack the maturity to be successful parents. In Antarctica it takes only a few minutes for the eggs to freeze. This nest is lost.

penguin nests

Dec 2, 2013

Penguin Hooligans.  Penguins are very territorial in the nesting colony. When fights break out over nesting sites or mates, the two penguins involved in the skirmish run, roll and fall over the others.  Nests are disturbed, and eggs scattered.  In this case at least three nests lost their eggs including our Nest #8 (green arrow) We do not know if our bird was in the fight, but his nest is lost anyway. This was a sad sight today.  They will not lay more eggs. We are finding a new nest to put into the study. 

on the ice

Dec 3, 2013

How we roll on the ice. Transportation in Antarctica is always a challenge. Vehicles need special tires and must go slow. Cracks in the sea ice are dangerous and change all the time. Today we are going out to Cape Royds using snow machines. They are lighter weight than other vehicles, can go faster and cross cracks the other vehicles could not. Notice we pull a sled with survival bags and extra clothes for the 2 hour trip.


Nov 30, 2013

We are finally back at the Cape Royds Adélie breeding colony on Ross Island. The delay has cost us a months worth of data, but we are glad to be here. The whales are back too. This one was just off the ice edge near the penguins.


Dec 1, 2013

Pre-Season. This is how our camp at Cape Royds sits all winter. The work tent is in the box, our sleep tents are rolled up on top of the box. The solar panels are down and all the supplies are straped together with the box. Every year we return and are glad to see it's still here. It takes two days to pull it all out and set up. We should be living here by Sat. Dec 7.
Stories from the 2012-2013 Adelie Penguin breeding season at Cape Royds, Antarctica.


Jan 18 , 2013

You're Not a Chick Anymore.This Adelie chick is loosing its chick feathers and growing the adult plumage that will enable it to stay warm and dry in the water. During this transition they require a great deal of food.


Jan 20 , 2013

New Clothes. This Adélie Penguin chick has almost completely lost his chick feathers and grown a set of adult ones. This is the last step in their maturing before he can keep warm and dry in the water as he looks for food.

penguin chick

Jan 16 , 2013

Molt is On. This chick is probably a month old, and is the first chick I have seen with the signs of growing its adult feathers. These birds will not be able to swim in the ocean and forage for their own food until they have all their adult feathers. The chick feathers are warm but not water proof.


Jan 17 , 2013

 Storm Penguin. When a blizzard arrives at Cape Royds, many of the penguins hunker down on the snow and ride the storm out. After 24 hours of strong winds and snow this bird is almost buried. You can see his back and the tip of his tail. Snow is a good insulator so at least he is protected from the wind.

penguin feet

Jan 14 , 2013

Penguin Feet. Adelie Penguins need strong feet and toenails to climb over rock and ice. Here an adult penguin is climbing the rocks at Cape Royds to get to its nest. Notice that the feathers come down almost to the end of the leg giving the appearance of short legs, but these birds have long strong legs. To learn more go HERE.


Jan 15 , 2013

Old Clothes. Living in Antarctica is hard on feathers. Cold water, ice, strong winds all take its toll even on these sturdy birds. Adelie Penguins lose their feather and grow new ones (molt) every year to replace worn out ones. On this bird, much of the black part of these feathers has already worn off. Molting is about a month away for most of these birds so we hope he can still stay warm and dry with these feathers.

penguin chick

Jan 12 , 2013

Hungry Chick. Compare this chick to the one in our Dec 30 entry below. This one is hungry and waiting for the parents to come and fill his belly with food. It takes a lot of food to raise a penguin chick. I will check on him tomorow to make sure they came back. Hopefully his belly will be full.


Jan 13 , 2013

Now What? With the sea ice starting to break up these cracks are occuring just off from Cape Royds. These birds are full of food for thier chicks and the nest is on the other side of the crack. Some birds can jump one this small, but we have seen some fall in when they try. Others will dive into the water and then crawl out the other side. The group will stand here for a while yakking and swaking trying to decide what to do.


Jan 10 , 2013

Whales in Town. A melt pond or 'polyna' has opened up in the frozen sea ice and the whales have come into it to feed. Here you see one Orca spy hopping and several others in the area. Theywere here for about an hour then left. These whales do not bother the penguins.


Jan 11 , 2013

The Baby Sitter. As the the chicks get older the parents do not guard them so closely. Here we see an adult surrounded by nests of chicks. Hard to tell which chick belong to which adult. You can see the structure of the nests have broken down as the penguins move around more and the parents are busy getting food rather than collecting rocks.


Jan 8 , 2013

Tag you are IT! This bird will wear the TDR (time, depth, recorder) tag for one trip to the ocean as it looks for food. It will tell us where he went, how many dives, and how deep the dives were as he searches for food. This way we can assess the abundance of food available for these birds. I am holding him steady as Dr. David Ainley attaches the tag. It takes about 5 min and does not hurt the bird. You can read more about how we use satellite tags HERE

Picture courtesy: Elaine Hood


Jan 9 , 2013

Sea Glider 4 An update on our sea glider. You can see that as the season progresses the penguins must go further and further for food. Our sea glider is working to record the conditions of the foraging areas by being close to where they are. You can follow along as more data comes in by going HERE.

penguin color variation

Jan 6 , 2013

Pigment loss. This penguin is slightly different than the others. He has no pigment on the tip of his wings and most of his toes. A genetic variation or alteration has caused this. It does not seem to effect him in anyway, but he does stand out in the crowd. The outside toe on his other foot is also black.

 penguin color variation

Jan 7 , 2013

 And the Rest. So many of you wrote in to see what the rest of this bird looks like. Here he is with white feathers in odd places all over his body. We named him Salty.


Jan 4 , 2013

Whales. Penguins have to share their space at Cape Royds. Today a pod of killer whales came through. These large predators do not bother the penguins, too much work for such a small meal, instead they eat the large Antarctic toothfish. If you would like to learn more about the relationship between whales, penguins and the Antarctic toothfish go HERE.


Jan 5 , 2013

How We Know What We Know. This penguin has been outfitted with a TDR (time-depth-recorder) tag which it will wear for about 24 hours, or one trip to the ocean for food for itself and it's chick. It will record how long the bird was out feeding, where it went, how many and how deep the feeding dives were and how long it stayed under the water for each dive. This is important information for researchers to learn about the location and quantity of food resources for these birds and their chicks. If you would like to learn more about these tags go H ERE.

ocean data collector

Dec 31 , 2012

Sea Glider 3 An update on our sea glider. You can see that as the season progresses the penguins must go further and further for food. Our sea glider is working to record the conditions of the foraging areas by being close to where they are. You can follow along as more data comes in by going HERE.

penguin attack

Jan 3 , 2013

Penguin Attack. Normally Adélie Penguins are more curious than aggressive. If you stand still they will come close and investigate what you are. In this case the penguin walked over to me, first played with my shoe laces, then decided to see if I was something to eat. It took a nibble at my leg then a hard bite which hurt. I did not want to scare him so tried hard to stand still, luckily he did not bite a second time, denim is not his favorite taste.

Photo: courtesy Elaine Hood


Dec 29 , 2012

Yearling. We so rarely see one year old Adelie Pengiuns in the colony. They spend their lives out on the sea ice, eating and growing. This is the only one I have seen so far this year. You can tell a one year old because of the white chin. When he molts this year his new chin will be black. See picture below.


Dec 30 , 2012

Eating Machine. Adelie Penguin chicks must grow fast. This one will multiply its birth weight by 30 in 50 days. That is like a 7 lb baby weighing 210 lbs in a month and a half. Here you see a 10 day old chick with a stomach to match its appetite. Parents will bring back almost 66 pounds of food for each chicks by the time they are ready to be on their own. If you would like to learn more about how we know this go HERE.

penguin mouth

Dec 27 , 2012

Eating Tools. Adelie Penguins have many adaptions to thrive in the harsh environment of Antarctica. Here you see their mouth parts whick include soft finger-like projections on their tongue and roof of the mouth. These make it easier to catch and swallow their prey whole. Small fish and krill get forced toward the throat and into the stomach. If you would like to see other adaptions go HERE.


Dec 28 , 2012

Reinforcements are here. This Adélie Penguin, Lonely Joe, built his nest a long way from the others. I have been worried about him all season and yet he has been able to fend off the Skua attacks which have been numerous because he is so isolated. Recently we have had an influx of many young birds in the colony. They are not here to breed, but may be looking around for next year. For now they have made a circle around Lonely Joe and are keeping the Skuas away. Lonely Joe and his mate get a break and can rest easily on their eggs.

skua food

Dec 25 , 2012

Nest #4 has Failed. This is a sad day for us as Nest #4 has failed. The male did not return in time to relieve the female who had been sitting on the eggs for over 2 weeks. During that time she had not eaten anything or had any water as she cannot leave the nest. She is gone. The eggs rolled out and became food for the Skuas as you can see in this picture.


Dec 26 , 2012

Penguin Family. It takes two parents to fledge (ready to be on their own) these chicks. One must stay and guard them from the cold and every present Skuas, the other must go get food. The parents take turns guarding and foraging, the work is evenly split between male and female. These chicks will eat about 30 kg (about 66 lbs) of food before they fledge. If you would like to learn more about how we know this go HERE.

penguin feedoing

Dec 23 , 2012

Feeding the Chicks 2. It is the same everywhere, feeding the children is a messy event. As every young mother knows when you feed the chicks the food gets everywhere. In this case the food is all over the the parent, the chick and ground. I have seen the same scene with a one year old baby and spaghetti. If you would like to learn more about penguin diet go HERE

penguin flag

Dec 24 , 2012

Our New Flag. This one from Grayslake Middle School, Grayslake IL. Ellen Bergstrom's class.

penguin feeding

Dec 21 , 2012

Feeding the Chicks. Part of our study is to find out what the penguins are eating. It seems to change during the season and we want to know why. We do this by watching what they feed their chicks. This is nest #2 and today they are getting a meal of part fish and part krill. Krill is pink and fish is silver. If you would like to learn more about penguin diet go HERE

penguin chick

Dec 22 , 2012

Penguin Chick Hatch. This is our first chick from Nest #6. Penguin chicks have to work hard to break out of their shells and the parents will not help them. This one is almost out (you can see the beak and wing) and will emerge wet. The parent will keep the chicks in the brood patch for several days to keep them warm as they are vulnerable to the cold and winds.


Dec 18 , 2012

Sea Glider 1. This self-propelled torpedo-like vehicle will be gliding through the ocean where the birds from our sister colony Cape Crozier feed. It will be taking measurements about the ocean as well as locating schools of fish. At the same time, some penguins will be outfitted with transmitters so we can see where they go for food. To learn more about this glider and watch its movements go HERE.


Dec 19 , 2012

Sea Glider 2. This map shows where the sea glider has been and where the penguins are foraging. You can follow along as more data comes in by going HERE.


Dec 16 , 2012

She has a secret. This bird is laying on her nest and although she will not stand up so we can see, we can tell she has a newly hatched chick. Our clues are the broken egg shell nearby and the marks near her mouth. When adults feed their chicks there is always some left over that splashes onto their mouth. Maybe tomorrow she will let us see the chick.


Dec 17 , 2012

 Meal Time. These penguins are on their way to the ocean and food. They have been tending the nest with eggs waiting for their mate to return, now it is their turn. Some have been waiting over 2 weeks for relief. The ocean is not far, the small iceberg marks the ice edge, less than a half a mile from the colony. This is a good year for penguins at Cape Royds.

penguin predator

Dec 14 , 2012

Predator and Prey. These two birds share the breeding colony at Cape Royds. Skuas eat penguin eggs and chicks during this time, as they soon will have their own chicks to feed. The Adelie penguin in this picture has 2 eggs and this Skua has had his eyes on them for some time. We wish the penguin luck in continuing to defend both eggs and hopefully chicks.

penguin jump

Dec 15 , 2012

Jumping the Cracks. The sea ice off Cape Royds is breaking up. To get to the open ocean and food, the penguins need to get from one ice floe (chunk of sea ice) to another. If the space is small enough they jump. Almost like flying for these birds. And, NO, they don't always make it. Sometimes they fall in the crack and have to climb out.

penguin wings

Dec 12 , 2012

Warm wings. This penguin has just returned from the ocean. The ocean is cold and he uses his wings to fly through the water, both demanding a great deal of energy. The pink color here is due to the large amount of blood supplying this energy. When these penguins are at rest on the land their wings are white indicating most of the blood has left their wings and gone back into their bodies to help keep them warm.

 penguin chick

Dec 13 , 2012

 First chick. This is the first chick of the season and marks the time when the colony will become full of new life and energy. We are so excited to see this happen. Today we found three nests with chicks. Tomorrow there will be many more.


Dec 10 , 2012

Warm wings. This penguin has just returned from the ocean. The ocean is cold and he uses his wings to fly through the water, both demanding a great deal of energy. The pink color here is due to the large amount of blood supplying this energy. When these penguins are at rest on the land their wings are white indicating most of the blood has left their wings and gone back into their bodies to help keep them warm.


Dec 11 , 2012

Center of the Circle. Sometimes being in the center is a good thing. Center nests are well protected from Skuas. But in this case the center bird has become covered in penguin poop. The white lines around each nest are poop squirts, the penguins raise their tails and squirt the poop away from their nest. Unfortunately the center bird has become the target for many of these squirts as you can see from the white lines on its back.

penguin flag

Dec 8 , 2012

Design a Flag. If your classroom would like to design a flag to fly in front of the penguin colony go HERE for instructions. This flag was made by the Peach room at Montessori Academy in Pembroke Pines, FL. After fying near the penguins, it now hangs at the McMurdo research station science laboratory in Antarctica.

camp supplies

Dec 9 , 2012

Supplies for the camp. This is how our field camp receives supplies. The helicopters from McMurdo arrive and bring propane for our stove and heater, food, and equipment. They also take away all trash, dirty water and even human waste. We leave nothing here. Antarctica is a pristine environment and we work hard to keep it that way.


Dec 5 , 2012

Barnes Glacier. A day trip out to see the Barnes Glacier. The glacier comes off Mt Erebus and floats out over the ocean. Right now, the ocean is frozen so we are able to drive our snowmachines on it, but is a few weeks all this will be open water.


Dec 7 , 2012

Glacier Melt. During the breeding season the glacier in the background melts proviing a small river through the colony. If global climate change warms this part of the world, the melt from the glacier will increase causing the water to rise. The penguins you see would not know to move their nests and would get washed away.

emperor penguin

Dec 2 , 2012

Emperor penguin chick. These chicks were hatched several weeks ago and will be ready to fledge in a few more. Adelie penguins will not hatch for 2 more weeks. The cycle of breeding for these birds is very different even though they live in the same place. If you would like to learn more about Emperor penguins go HERE.

penguin eggs

Dec 4 , 2012

Lost eggs. It seems Adelie penguins do not realize that their eggs have rolled out of the nest. Even when the eggs are very close to them, the adults do not roll them back in. Here are two eggs that will not become chicks this year. It makes us sad to see this, but we are here as observers only and cannot interfere with what happens.


Nov 30, 2012

Penguin tracks in the snow. The penguin's tail makes the wiggly line in between the feet prints. Many people think they have short legs but here is a picture of them. They are long and powerful. It's not their legs that are short, it's their body which is long. Imagine our bodies going down to our ankles. We would walk like a penguin too.

mt erebus

Dec 1 , 2012

Mt Erebus, the southern most active volcano. This volcano has a bubbling lava lake in the crater and shoots out lava bombs frequently. It serves as a backdrop to our penguin breeding colony at Cape Royds. In the picture you see the Hilton Group where nest #5 is. If you would like to learn more about Mt Erebus go HERE.

ice edge

Nov 28, 2012

Penguins in their natural habitat, on the ice. These adult Adelie Penguins are from our colony and taking a short rest before heading into the ocean to feed. They prefer to go into the water as a group so will wait for one to go first, then the rest will follow.

ice berg

Nov 29, 2012

Ice Berg. When part of an ice shelf breaks off it is called an ice berg. Here is one that found it's way to Cape Royds. 80% of the ice is below the water so you can imagine how big this is. They are moved by the wind, currents and tides. Who knows where this one will go next.

seal colony

Nov 26, 2012

Weddell seals in the McMurdo Sound area spend much of their time resting on the ice. In this area many have pups which are still nursing. The pups stay close to the mothers. Look at the picture carefully and see how many mothers with pups you can find.

Antarctic Day Celebration

Nov 27, 2012

Antarctic Day. Dec 1 is the day to celebrate Antarctica and all the special animals that live there. Antarctica is for owned by no country and only science and limited tourism is allowed. The creatures that make this place their home need our protection which includes protecting their habitat and their food source.

penguin food

Nov 24, 2012

What penguins eat. We do not know why this penguin regurgitated this pile of krill, but it does let us know what they are currently eating. During the season they may switch to fish for reasons we are not sure of yet, but hoping to find out, one of the many mysteries of these extraordinary birds. To learn more about their diet go HERE.

penguins asleep

Nov 25, 2012

Sleeping penguins. Many people ask us how penguins sleep. Sometimes they sleep standing up with their heads under their wing, but we found these Emperor penguins laying on the ice resting.

sea ice

Nov 21, 2012

A satellite image of Ross Island. McMurdo Research Station is located at the end of the long peninsula and the three breeding colonies of Adélie Penguins are located on the three capes which have exposed areas and small rocks for their nests. This picture was taken Nov. 8, 2012 and you can see the open ocean is close to all three capes, good for the penguin parents as chicks require lots of food.


Nov 23, 2012

Skua dinner. When the penguins start to lay eggs the Skuas arrive. These big predatory birds tag team the penguins on their nest. While one Skuas harasses the nesting adult the other reaches in and grabs the egg. This Skua has claimed his prize and will soon enjoy a meal.


Nov 19, 2012

Near Miss. This penguin has had an accident. It appears to be a bite mark, perhaps from a leopard seal, but we do not know for sure. He has managed to survive and thrive in spit of it and is able to swim, feed and get around. Antarctica is a harsh place and penguins must not only cope with the weather, but also hungry predators in the ocean. We will watch him as the season progresses. He is on a nest with a mate.

penguin walk

Nov 20, 2012

This Emperor penguin came into the colony today for a visit, rarely do we see them come onto the land. He wandered into an Adélie breeding group and was attacked by several birds trying to keep him from stepping on their eggs. This Adélie got behind him and started pushing him in the direction away from the nesting group. Gratefully the Emperor seemed to take the hint and walked away, rather than further into the nesting area. As it was a couple of eggs did get stepped on and were lost.

penguin egg

Nov 17, 2012

It is early in the season and some nests are already losing their eggs. This one rolled out and was stepped on by the adults. No Skuas were around. So far I have counted 10 eggs like this in the colony. Maybe the adults are young and not being very careful, we do not know what caused this to happen. It is very sad.


Nov 18, 2012

The Barnes Glacier. This glacier comes off the slopes of Mt. Erebus, an active volcano 5 miles from the penguin colony. The glacier has pushed its way into the ocean and right now is frozen in. We can walk up to the ice where the exposed parts are probably 20 000 years old. In a couple of months where we are standing will be open water.

seal pup

Nov 14, 2012

Penguins aren't the only ones creating families here in the Ross Sea area. Spring is the season for Weddel seals to have their pups. This one is about 10 days old and will rely on the mother for food for a few more weeks. The females haul out of the ocean through cracks in the ice to have their pups and remain on the ice until the pups are old enough to swim themselves.

penguin nest

Nov 15, 2012

Mated pairs of Adélie Penguins stay close to each other while on the nest. Like humans this pair will work as a team to raise the chicks. They will take turns keeping the egg warm ( brooding) and then take turns bringing food back for the chicks. Antarctica is a harsh place, there is no chance a single parent can raise the chicks by themselves.

sea ice

Nov 12, 2012

Antarctica from 30 000 feet. The ice does not stand still. You can see how the glacier looks like a stream. In fact it is called an ice stream and it moves very slowly away from the interior of the continent towards the ocean. The end of the glacier may float out over the water where it will be called an ice shlef, and if a piece breaks off it will be called an iceberg.

penguin nest

Nov 13, 2012

 An early arrival to the Adelie breeding colony at Cape Royds. This picture was taken Oct 26, 2012. Few males were here so this lone bird was able to gather a very large pile of rocks. Within a few days other birds arrived and it was impossible for this male to guard the pile all the time. His stash was quickly reduced and his nest became much smaller. Males must constantly guard their rocks to maintain the nest. As soon as they turn their backs or walk off in search of new rocks, others will steal them.


Stories from the 2011-2012 Adelie Penguin breeding season at Cape Royds, Antarctica.

penguin chicks

Jan 16 , 2012

Siblings. Notice the difference in the size of these nest mates. One may have hatched much sooner or one may be more aggressive getting food. As I watched this nest, both chicks were getting fed, but the larger one was getting more as it could reach the parents beak easier, was stronger and could reach higher. We will not know if the smaller one makes it. He will have to grow in a hurry to make fledging weight and size before winter comes.    


Jan 14 , 2012

Naked Peguin. An interesting chick in the colony. He has no feathers on his front side or head and the feathers on his back are small.. We are worried about how he will survive unless he grows his adult feathers. You can see the places where the feathers should be and you can see his ear. He seems to be thriving well, but will not be able to survive the cold without the protection of his parent. We will follow him as long as we can.

Skua chick

Jan 15 , 2012

Skua Nest. I have passed this nest every day for the last few weeks. Finally the first egg has hatched. This chick is one day old. The second egg has a small hole in it and I can hear the chick peeping. Many of the Skua chicks do not make it through the first couple of weeks, but these aggressive predators live to be 40 years old so there are many opportunities to raise a family.


Jan 12 , 2012

Disciplining the Children. Sometimes chicks wander off and when they do the neighbors will peck at them. When this happens, they can get disoriented, not be able to find their way back to the nest and become lost. This parent has decided one way to keep her chick under control is to put him between her legs and sit on his head.


Jan 13 , 2012

Buried Nest Update. An update on the story of Jan 8. We have been watching this nest over the last few days to see how the birds managed with the large amount of snow fall. The adult pulled himself out on the 8th and then over the next few days the hole widened. The parents were able to feed the chicks through the hole and as of today we feel the chicks will be able to get out of the hole themselves so we are no longer worried about this nest.


Jan 10 , 2012

Time to Give Up. This pair has been taking turns nesting these eggs for over 53 days. For some reason they did not hatch. They may have gotten cold, were not fetilized, or something else was wrong. It is time to give up. They continued to sit the nest as all the other eggs around them hatched. Today the parent on the left got up to exchange with the returning parent on the right, but neither one sat back down on the eggs. Ten minutes later the eggs were gone to the Skuas.

penguin molt 

Jan 11 , 2012

 Oldest Chick. This is the oldest chick I know of and was probably hatched on Dec 13. That makes him almost one month old. He is very large and you can see the adult feathers starting to come in around his head. There is a nest mate who is as large, but so far I do not see adult feathers on him. Notice the chin will be white as in the picture below for the first year of his life. Next year at this time he will molt again and get the adult black chin.


Jan 8 , 2012

Buried in the Snow. After our recent snow storm, some of our nests were buried. This parent is on a chick and protected it from the storm with her body, but now finds herself buried in snow. Not a problem for the adult, within a few minutes she pulled herself out, but the chick will stay in the hole until the snow melts. The parents will still be able to feed the chick through the hole, so we are not worried.


Jan 9 , 2012

 The Yearling. This bird may not look like the other Adelie penguins at our colony but he is one. This is a one year old. When chicks get their first set of adult feathers they have a white chin. Only after their second year of life do they get the black chin as you see in the picture below and the others on this page.Yearlings rarely come to Cape Royds, as they are too young to breed. In six years this is only the second one I have seen.

penguin food

Jan 6 , 2012

Dinner Time! We get many questions about what the penguins eat. The only way we know is by watching what they feed the chicks. If it's orange, it's krill, if it's gray it's fish. Today a young parent regurgitated more food that her chick could eat so a pile of it was near the nest. You can see most of it is krill, the small shrimp like creatures with black eyes, but there is also some fish matter in there as well. If you want to read more about penguin diets and how we know this, go HERE


Jan 7 , 2012

All Ashore! Look at the picture for Jan 3 below and you see how penguins go into the water. Here is what they look like when they come ashore. Notice how sleek their feathers are. Compressed against their bodies, the feathers keep these Antarctic penguins warm and dry in the sub freezing water of the Ross Sea. The water here is -1.6oC, which is below the freezing temperature of fresh water. It doesn't freeze because of the salt content.


Jan 4 , 2012

First Skua Chick. These precocious chicks do not receive the constant protection from the parents that the penguin chicks get. Both parents are out looking for food and the chick is left alone. As I walked close, however, one of the parents flew back so from a distance they keep their eye on him. This chick is probably 2 days old.


Jan 5 , 2012

Only a Mother Could Love. This chick is in the awkward stage of growing up. Most of his body is his stomach which the parents must constanly fill up. Adelie Penguins multiply their birth weight 30 times in 50 days, which is an incredible rate of growth. The fluffy chick feathers keep them warm, but are not water proof. After today's storm many of the chicks are wet and cold like this one.


Jan 2 , 2012

Frozen in Time. In 1907-09 the British Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Nimrod Expedition, lived in a hut they built which is close to the penguin colony.The hut still contains much of the food, equipment and supplies of the original expedition. Here you can see some of the food they ate. It has been 100 years, but since everything stays frozen year round and there are no insects, mold or other pests, the food is still edible. To read more about the hut go to: http://www.nzaht.org/


Jan 3 , 2012

Perfect Form. One nice thing about the water being so close to us is the ability to watch the penguins diving, jumping and swimming. Here you see a penguin diving into the water from about 4 ft. Notice the extreme hydrodynamic shape of his body. The body shape of penguins has been reported as the most hydrodynamic shape known and has influenced the design of manmade underwater vehicles and equipment. They do not use their feet to paddle like a duck, but use their wings to fly through the water as other birds fly through the air.


Dec 30, 2011

You Go First. There are many cracks in the ice just off Cape Royds. For days they have been easy for the penguins to jump over or go around. Today the cracks are too big and the birds have to swim across. In this picture a group of penguins stood at the edge for several minutes. No one wanted to be the first to go. Then one took the lead, within 5 seconds they all went. There are no leoplard seals near Cape Royds, but the penguins don't know this. Jumping in the water is always a risky event, but that is where their food is.

ice crack

Dec 31, 2011

Ice Crack. It is summer in Antarctica, the sea ice around Cape Royds is breaking up. For the penguins this means there is more access to places where food has been hiding. This crack, heading south from the tip of the cape, has been opening up for several days and today we are watching penguins use it for feeding. The seals also enjoy these cracks and there are several groups of them along the length of this one.


Dec 28, 2011

Skua Attack. Skuas hover over the nesting birds looking for opportunities to swoop in and take eggs or chicks. This one has it's eye on a small chick in the nest below. The Skua can hover for several seconds trying to get the adult penguin off balance so it will expose the chick.This nest is in the rocks which is good, but as you can see there are few penguins close by to help fend off the attack. Today the adult successfully fended off the Skua. Penguin 1, Skua 0.

penguin egg

Dec 29, 2011

Late Egg.This chick is more than a week old. The second egg has not hatched and probably won't. If it did now, the second chick would be so much smaller than the first that it may not be able to compete for food. At some point there will not be room in the nest for both the chick and the egg. It will get kicked out, roll away and become Skua food very quickly. I will continue to watch this nest to see how long it takes for that to happen. There are many reasons for the egg not hatching, perhaps it was not fertilized, or got cold.


Dec 26, 2011

Near Miss.While we are talking about feathers, here is a penguin we will call "Lucky." We do not know what happened, but it could be this is a near miss from the bite of a leopard seal. The seal got away with a mouth full of feathers, but the penguin got away! In a few weeks he will go through a complete molt and grow new ones so no serious harm. While he is swimming, this area will be wet and cold, but we hope he will be able to tolerate that until the new feathers grow in.

penguin brood patch

Dec 27, 2011

Brood Patch. This adult Adelie Penguin is showing us the brood patch. This is the only part of the penguin's body not covered with feathers besides the beak and feet. It is exactly the size of two eggs or two very small chicks. The eggs and chicks are nestled in here to keep warm. It's the penguin's body that creates the warmnth, not the feathers.


Dec 24, 2011

Penguin Trees. Just like the song birds need trees, these penguins need sea ice. This is where they live and much of their food supply lives underneath the ice. In some places around Antarctica, changes in the sea ice have caused these penguins to move. If you would like to read about how global climate change has caused Adelie Penguins to move you can go HERE.


Dec 25, 2011

Penguin feathers are different from other birds and a major factor in how these birds cope with this environment. These specialized feathers keep them warm when they are on the ice, dry when they are in the water and contribute to how fast they swim. More dense than any other bird, Antarctica penguins are almost completely convered with them. Only the tip of the beak, feet and brood patch are feather free. Every year Adelie Penguins undergo a complete molt, losing their old feathers and growing new ones. During this time they can not feed as they would not be waterproof. Around Cape Royds there are piles of feathers, letting us know many of them go through their molting process here.

penguin tracks

Dec 21, 2011

Penguin Tracks in the Snow. A few days ago we had a gentle snow storm and afterwards the penguins had fun. In this picture you can see their walking tracks and sliding tracks through the fresh snow. Sometimes the penguins slide on their bellies, we call this tobogganing and it's faster than walking. The wide track is made by a penguin tobogganer, the others by walkers.


Dec 22-23, 2011

Fishing in the Ross Sea. This Russian fishing vessel near the Ross Ice Shelf hit ice Dec 16. The crew on board is safe, and New Zealand air crew have dropped pumps and patching supplies onto the nearby ice. This boat is fishing for the Antarctica Toothfish which is sold worldwide as Chilean Sea Bass. A main food source for whales and seals, their numbers have declined in recent years, due to commercial fishing.The boat also carries fuel, which if leaks, would harm populations of penguins who live in the area. Read more about this event HERE.

penguin nap

Dec 19, 2011

Sunday Nap. This warm Sunday afternoon found many penguins snoozing quietly on their nests. Penguins are like people in this way, or maybe it's the other way around! The three here are still on eggs so no rushing to the ocean for food yet !! When the chicks hatch, the real work begins, there will be less time for rest as hungry penguin chicks will require about 60 lbs of food to reach fledging size and weight in the next 50 days.


Dec 20, 2011

Skua Family. This Skua pair has built their nest right in the middle of the penguin colony. Everyday I walk past the nest and wonder why the penugins do not go after these predators of their eggs and chicks. A Skua is no match for an adult penguin, but for some reason they don't. Skua are territorial and will attack any other Skua that come into their breeding or eating territory. This pair is very unhappy about me being there and will attack me if I linger too long or get too close.

penguin chick

Dec 17, 2011

New Life. This is a common sight these days and for the next several days. A brand new chick with its parent. The shell near the nest is a clue that this chick has just hatched. With so much wind at Cape Royds the shells scatter quickly and then the only way we can know about new chicks is when the parent stands up to feed them. New chicks are nested tightly for the first few days. You can see the second egg just behind this chick. It may be a day or two before it hatches.


Dec 18, 2011

Iciciles. Sometimes we spend so much time with the penguins we forget to seek the rest of the beauty here in Antarctica. On this day we came across a magnificant icicile hanging from a rock. It was 5 ft long and just barely dripping when we took this picture. December is the middle of summer and the sun is up 24 hours a day, and even though the temperature is below freezing there is some melting of the snow and ice.

mail delivery

Dec 14, 2011

Taxi Anyone? When we go back and forth from McMurdo research station to our little camp at Cape Royds, this is how we travel. The National Science Foundation provides 5 helicotpers which support the scientific research projects in the Ross Sea Area. Today, this one brought us our mail and some food supplies.The landing pad is right in front of our tent so we don't have to carry things very far.


Dec 15-16, 2011

Mr Popper's Penguins is a classic story about how a group of Gentoo penguins change the way a man thinks about life. It is now a major motion picture starring Jim Carrey and you can win a DVD of the movie by sending us a self addressed stamped postcard. See details HERE. Gentoo penguins do live in Antarctica, but we do not see them here. Mr Popper sent us a flag to fly at our Adélie breeding colony. This is the first time Gentoo penguins have come to Cape Royds.


Dec 11, 2011

Curious Penguin.Many penguins are very curious and if you are still and quiet they will come up to you. This one explored my boots and laces with his beak before looking up at me. I could only wonder what he was thinking as we stood there quietly for several moments. I am 10 times bigger than he is and could easily hurt him, but he was not afraid.

mt erebus

Dec 13, 2011

Mt Erebus, the southern most active volcano. Today we can not see the plume becasue the air in Antarctica is very dry. Inside the crater there is an active lava lake which produces lovely feldspar crystals as large as your finger. There is a group of scientists that work near the rim of the crater and study this amazing mountain. If you would like to learn more about Mt Erebus you can visit the website HERE.


Dec 9, 2011

First Skua Nest. These birds are the main predators of the penguin eggs and chicks. Some of them make their nests inside the penguin breeding colony to be close to their food source. This one is particulalry close to the penguins. Today she has one egg, but they frequently lay two. Skua do not make much of a nest, just scrap out a small depression in the sand.


Dec 10, 2011

Penguin Temper. This penguin is showing me that he does not like what I am doing or where I am standing. In addition to this posture, he is growling at me. When this happens, the best thing for me to do is back away or stay very still because the next move on his part will be to bite. Penguins have very strong beaks and a bite will hurt.


Dec 7, 2011

Happy penguin. This penguin is in his element. On this day It was snowing in the colony and some birds are sitting tightly on their nests, others are cozy up in the rocks to keep out of the snow and wind. Just like people, these birds respond to changes in the weather differently, this one was out enjoying it. I watched for a few minutes as he stood here flapping his wings and preening his feathers. Snow does not bother him.

snow petral

Dec 8, 2011

Snow Petral. The only other bird we see here besides penguins and Skua, the Snow Petral. This lovely and fast flying bird is aptly named. It is snow white except the jet black eye and beak. These pigeon size birds live on fish and krill and make their nest in rock outcroppings on Antarctic Islands near the ocean. We see them more often when the winds are high and I have never seen one land. Catching them on film reguires a fast shutter and many tries.


Dec 5, 2011

Skua Hunters. Penguins aren't the only birds on Ross Island that get studied. These two bird researchers, Terry Greene and Roger McGarry, from New Zealand are here to count the Skua population around Cape Royds. It's hard work and today it is cold and snowing. So far they have counted about 70 birds. Luckily not all the Skua predate the penguins, many of them live off fish from the ocean.

penguin eggs

Dec 6, 2011

Third Egg. Sometimes an egg will get loose from one nest and roll into another. In that case the nesting adults will try to incubate all three. But the brood patch (featherless area on the belly of the adults) is only big enough to keep 2 eggs warm. The third egg will get shoved out one side or another. In this picture we see a third egg that is half in, half out. Without being completely covered, it will not be warm enough to properly incubate. We fear it will not hatch.


Dec 3, 2011

Walk to the Ocean. The walk from Cape Royds to the open ocean. You can see the dark line where the ice meets the sky. It's only about a mile, but for a penguin with short legs it can seem longer. The pile of ice near me is made from the action of the tide which shoves ice up against the rocks of the cape. The pressure makes the ice break and pieces jam into each other. Over time it piles up.


Dec 4, 2011

Bowling for Penguins. Adelie Penguins build their nests about 1 meter apart measured center to center. They usually don't face each other otherwise, if they are a bit too close, they will peck. Only under certain circumstances do they all face the same way as in this picture. When the wind blows, penguins face into it so the wind flows over their body and nout under their feathers. This is similar to the water when they swim, the feathers keeping them dry in the water and warm in the wind.


Dec 1, 2011

Young Parents. For some reason this pair is not nesting their egg. Maybe they are young and in-experienced. Like many first time parents they are not sure what to do. Antarctica is always cold and unlike other birds, who can leave the eggs for awhile, penguins cannot. I watched this pair for almost an hour, they played with the egg, moved it around, but never laid down on it. A few times Skuas tried to take the egg, but the parents successfully defended it. Then a particularly bold Skua came and took it. This pair will not have a chick this season.


Dec 2, 2011

Skua Kitchen. Some of the Skua pairs in our colony have territories and seem to predate the same group of nesting penguins. When they take the eggs, they frequently take them to the same place to eat them. Here is one of those places right near the group with our #7 nest. We call it the Skua kitchen.

penguin researcher

Nov 29, 2011

Searching for Bands. Being a penguin researcher is not always glamours. It is long hours walking the colony looking for banded birds, entering data into the computer and sometimes being cold. One of our researcher Dr. Katie Dugger in her element searching for banded birds at Cape Royds. Read more about Katie HERE.


Nov 30, 2011

Fish Dinner.When penguins are not breeding and providing eggs and chicks for the Skua, these strong predators eat fish. Here you see a mated pair of Skua.One of them brought a fish in from the ocean to share with its mate. We are glad to see this because every fish eaten is one less penguin egg stolen. This pair hangs in the middle of the colony and may lay their eggs there, we will watch them.


Nov 27, 2011

Dirty Birds. The day after the storm and the sun has come out. This means the new snow turns to mud and another challenge for the penguins. Some nests are very shallow and will catch the melt water. This will turn the eggs cold and they will not hatch. In this picture the pair lost the eggs in the storm, they must have rolled out of the nest or been kicked out as the birds tried to manage during the storm. Eggs in the open do not last long, there are many Skua in the colony this year.

shackeltons hut

Nov 28, 2011

In 1907-09 the British Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Nimrod Expedition, used this hut in their pursuit of the South Pole. Led by Ernest Shackleton, the expedition reached a latitude of 88° 23' S, just 97.5 nautical miles (180.6 km; 112.2 mi) from the pole before having to turn back. The hut still contains much of the food, equipment and supplies of the original expedition. To read more about the hut go to: http://www.nzaht.org/


Nov 25, 2011

Storm in the colony. Not all the breeding groups in the colony get hit by the storm equally. The group in this picture is in the path of the wind as it comes off the frozen sea and always get covered with snow. Eggs and chicks fall out of nests,it is a tough location to raise a family. Other groups are on the side of the Cape which is sheltered by winds from the South, these nests do better.

tour ship

Nov 26, 2011

Visitors. We think we have this place to ourselves, but sometimes a tour ship will arrive and take tourists to Shackleton's Hut, one of the historic huts on Ross Island. This one is a Russian icebreaker that has been turned into a tour boat. Not too many ships are able to get through these waters. They anchored themselves in the ice as you see it here to wait out the 2 day storm.
penguins What Penguins do in a Storm. When a storm arrives at Cape Royds, penguins on nests have no choice, they hunker down to protect eggs or chicks and allow the snow to cover them. Other penguins like the ones in this picture find a snow bank to lay on which protects them from the wind. The snow builds up around them and they find themselves in a hole. penguins After the storm is over the penguins are able to pull themselves out of the hole and walk away. The amount of guano we see lets us know how long the pengin was in the hole. The storm lasted 2 days so we suspect the penguin was here for about that amount of time.


Nov 22, 2011

They're Back.The Skuas have returned to Cape Royds. This pair has been in this nest location for many years and it is not far from the penguins. It will be a few days before they lay their eggs, but we already see the empty shells of the penguin eggs they have eaten.


Nov 23, 2011

Friendly Spat. Sometimes penguins build their nest too close to each other and squabbles break out. In this case it was over some rocks that one neighbor felt belonged to him. The other bird thought they would look good on his nest so an argument started. Nothing too fierce, mostly beak jabbing and squawking. It was over in a few minutes.


Nov 20, 2011

Head in the Snow When it snows in the colony, penguins who are not on a nest lay down and let the snow collect around them. Sometimes they will stay like this for a few days untill the storm stops.


Nov 21, 2011

Lost Egg.When storms happen, trouble sometimes follow. Durring a snow storm at Cape Royds this egg rolled out of the the nest. The parents, both in the picture, either did not see it or did not know. Once the egg is out of the nest if freezes quickly and will not survive. This nest will only hatch one chick.



Nov 18, 2011

Waiting for the Females. This male has made a very nice nest out fo rocks and is waiting for a female to come join him. This display is nosiy and says" This is my nest, look at me, come on by for a visit."

hut vbiew

Nov 19, 2011

View From Research Hut. Today is a brilliant day at Cape Royds and there is open ocean in front of us. This makes the penguins very happy as they do not need to go far for food. In the back is the continent of Antractica and the Royal Society Mountain Range.


ice stream

Nov 16, 2011

From 30 000 Feet. When flying over Antarctica you can see that some glaciers are not standing still. These ice streams are called that because even though they are soldi ice they flow. Look carefully to see the lines in the ice


Nov 17, 2011

Stubby Antarctica is a harsh place and penguins live a tough life. We do not know if this penguin had a close call with a predator, had a slip and fall or was born this way. No matter, it does not slow him down.

Emperor penguins

Nov 14, 2011

Visitors to the Cape. These adult Emperors did not breed this year otherwise they woudl be in their colony tending to their chicks. Emperor chicks hatch in Sept and by this time would be in the highest need of food.

cape royds

Nov 15, 2011

Cape Royds Research Station. Today we move to our research station at Cape Royds very close to the penguins. OUr hut is a tent with a dmall propane heater to keep us warm and a solar panel to charge our computers, cameras and radios. It will be home for over 2 months.



Oct 28, 2011

First Nest of the Season. This male will go without food and water for several days, maybe longer. These are the early birds. They must protect thier pile of rocks from the neighbors and wait for the females to arrive. If they leave the nest for even a minuet the rocks will be stolen.

penguin egs\gs

Nov 12, 2011

The First Egg of the Season. Today we see the first egg of the 2011-12 breeding season at Cape Royds.Some years the first egg is earlier, others it's a bit later. Why this happens is one reason we are here to study these remarkable birds.

Click on one of the titles below to read some of the past stories from Cape Royds.


to track the sea ice. The difference between 2009 and 2008 was surprising.

Nov 3, 2009


Storms and Snow Challenge the Penguins. This year there are more storms with more snow than other years. This makes the nesting process for the Adelies harder. See how they are coping.

Nov 11, 2009


Adelies Aren't the Only Ones With the sea edge so close, Emperor Penguins are coming onto the ice and walking towards Royds. They do not breed here, so what are they doing here?

Nov 14, 2009

antarctic toothfish

 Fish Story Today we walk the ice crack and look for fish heads. What does this have to do with penguins?


Dec 8, 2009


Penguins 1 - Skuas 0 Penguins take revenge on a Skua who got too close. See who won.


Dec 12, 2009

penguin chick

New Life Comes to Cape Royds,Our first chicks of the year, see how they hatch!


Dec 18, 2009


Where Have All the Whales Gone? Commercial fishing in the Ross Sea is reducing the food source for the marine animals that live there.


Dec 24, 2009