Cape Royds Nest Check, 2019-20

Cape Royds is a small Adelie penguin breeding colony of about 2100 nests. In 2000 there were 4000 nests. The decline occurred when a large iceberg grounded about 60 km (40 miles) north and caused McMurdo Sound to be completely ice covered. This made it difficult for Royds penguins to reach the colony. Many penguins left Royds to find nests in colonies closer to open water.

In 2007 open water was only a few kilometers away and penguins started to return to Cape Royds. In 2008, the open water was again about 75 km away and the penguins had to walk further to get here, many did not, and there were fewer nests. About half of the nests that were started during 2007 were lost as the brooding parent could not wait for the foraging parent to return. Hunger forced them to abandon the eggs.

The open water was about a 2km from the colony at the start of the 2009 season, much easier for the penguins to reach the colony, but for some reason egg laying was delayed by several days. Delayed hatching meant that many chicks were not be ready when winter arrived.

In the 2011 season we had the biggest chicks ever as the ocean was close and food was plentiful. The 2013-14 season also provided early open water so it was a good year for the penguins, but we saw more Skuas than usual and predation was heavy. The 2015 season opened with the ocean at the entrance to the colony. These birds were able to swim all the way and had an easy time going for food to feed the chicks.

Nov 2016, we arrived to find the open ocean again 70 km (50 miles) north of the colony. 2016 was another year like 2008 with food so far away, parents were not able to return in time to feed chicks. Over 90%of the nests failed. It was a sad year.

Nov 2017 the ice edge was close and the birds had an easy time arriving to the colony and raising chicks.  It is a good year, with plenty of fat chicks.

We are eager to see how the 2019 season begins. Every season presents new mysteries to solve, join us as the 2019-20 season unfolds. Click HERE to see archived weather histories, HERE to see penguin families from 2011 – 2019. To see some of the postcards and flags that have been sent to Cape Royds, by children, all over the world go HERE and HERE.

Questions about this page? Email me.

Jean Pennycook:

cape_royds penguins_ice
Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarctica. Adelie penguins returning to their breeding colony.
Adelie penguins Going for food.
penguin chick
Two penguin eggs in a rock nest. Two Adelie penguin chicks



Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Breeding Nest Check 2019-2020

click on any picture to see a larger version


Jan 7, 2020. Our time with the penguins is over and we are leaving Cape Royds. Out of 11 nests we have 9 chicks left. Some lost their eggs early, some lost both chicks, some raised one chick and some raised 2 chicks. We never know what will happen. Please join us next year as we select more penguin families to follow.

You can contrinue to watch the weather and see daily pictures of the colony HERE. Go to the images button for the pictures.

Look for us around Nov 10th, 2020.


Check out the new book about Adelie penguins and our research at Cape Royds, Antarctica. Joey hatched in 2008 and this story follows his life as he learns to be a penguin, builds his first nest, finds a mate and raises his own chicks. You can see more HERE.


Picture of the Day: Jan 7, 2020

Pictures of the day are archived HERE

The book ends in Jan 2018 when we left the colony, but Joey's story continues. If you would like to see what is happening for Joey and Echo this year go HERE.


For daily weather updates from our automatic weather station at Cape Royds go HERE and scrolll through the tabs for Wind Direction, Wind Speed, Humidity, Pressure and Temperature.

Click on the NEST # to see all the pictures from this season and read more about the history the birds. One bird in each pair is banded as a chick so we know their life story.



Jan 7, 2020. Skua Family. The Skua build their nests around the penguin colony. This chick is very young but already learning that penguins are a food source. Skua chicks do not stay in the nest, but are able to wander in a couple of days. The parents will still keep an eye on them no matter where they go.
Nest #1 Band #6661 - Male Nest #1 Dec 29, 2019, UPDATE
#6661 and his mate. He is 9 years old, and a good parent. Their nest is in the Cliffs group near many other strong breeders. Carl has come back! He was gone for almost 2 months, but has returned to his nest. We are so glad to see him alive, perhaps he will try to breed again next year.

This banded male is new to our study. He is 9 years old and first bred when he was 4, which is young for Adelie penguins. He could not raise chicks that year, but has successfully raised chicks the last three years. Let's watch and see what happens this season. He has been named Carl by the 2nd graders in Cheryl Carbary's class at Mohawk ES, Macomb, MI. His mate is Shuffles, by the students in Darcia Deangelis' class at Martin Luther King MS, Asbury park, NJ. First egg: Nov 15, 2019

Dec 10, 2019 This nest has failied.

Nest #2 Band # 62853 - Female

Nest #2 Jan 3, 2020

Banded female, 7 years old They are in the Center Field breeding group, with lots of neighbors and a large rock nearby. Can you find them?

Oreo is here Cookie is gone. This is very sad for us. I expected this nest to make it, but raising chicks in Antarctica is a hard job.


This banded female is new to our study group and is 7 years old. She bred for the first time last year, but did not have such a secure nest and the chicks were lost to the Skua. This year she has a new mate and a better nest up against the rocks. The female is Cheesecake and the male is Oreo, named by the 5th grade students at Scott ES, Scott AFB, IN. The chick is named by the students in Beth Shenk's and Sara Torchia's 2nd & 3rd-grade classes in the Elizabethtown Area School District located in Elizabethtown, PA. His name is Cookie.

FIrst egg: Nov 17, 2019. Chick hatched Dec 21, 2019 (34 days)

Jan 3, 2020 The chick is gone, this nest has failed

Nest #3 Band #4877 - Female Nest #3 Jan 7, 2020
The 12 year old female alone. Their nest is in the Rocks goup, plenty of protection from the Skuas. Can you find her? Mango and Charlie were able to raise a healthy chick. Today Chilly is 17 days old. He is healthy and strong, and both parents are feeding him daily. He will make it.

This 12 year old female was in our study last year and failed to raise chicks. She is near the same nesting spot, but has a new mate and is more protected than last year. Let's hope they succeed this time. The female is Mango, named by the 1st grade students in Yolanda Thomas' class at Shoal Creek ES in Conyers, GA. The male is Charlie, named by the 2nd graders in Tiffany Sheets' class at Kingwood ES, in West Virginia.This chick has been named Chilly by the 3rd students in Karen Saso's class at Arnold ES.

First egg: Nov 14, 2019, Chick hatched Dec 21, 2019, (? days)

Nest #4 Band #4202 - Male Nest #4 Jan 7, 2020
#4202 and his mate. He is 13 years old. They are in the same nesting spot as the last few years. See if you can find the banded bird. Cosmos and Kora were able to raise one healthy chick. Today Lily is 3 weeks old. She will start to molt and be on her own in another 2 weeks. We wish her well.

We followed this pair in 2015-2016 and again in 2018-2019. Go HERE if you would like to see what happened in those years. They have raised chicks, but not last year. We first saw them on the nest Nov 7th. Let's wish them well. Their names are Kora and Cosmos and were named by the students in Connie Schutte's class at Riverview Learning CEnter, Carnation, WV. The chicks have been named Lily and Captain by the Bedminister Bobcats at Bedminster ES in Bedminster, PA. Their teacher is Peg Volak.

First egg: Nov 13, 2019. First chick Dec 19, 2019

Nest #5 Band # 72320 - Female Nest #5 Jan 7, 2020
This banded female is 6 years old. Their nest is in the Hilton breeding group, same as last year. Can you find them.

Both parents are near the nest, Frozen is doing well. Today she is 3 weeks old and getting bigh enough to leave the nest and join other young penguin chicks in a crech.

This banded female is 6 years old and new to our study. She bred for the first time last year and hatched eggs, but the chicks were lost to the Skua. This year she is in a new nesting site with a new mate. The male has been named Puddletux and the female is Parker. They were named by the students in Deanna Wheeler's class at JC Parks ES in Indian Head, MD. Let's wish this young couple good luck. The chicks have been named Toboggon and Frozen by the students in Mary-Catherine Irving's class at McDonogh School in Owings MIlls, MD.

Frist egg: Nov 14, 2019. FIrst chick Dec 18, 2019. SEcond chick Dec 21, 2019.

Nest #6 Band #5163 - Male Nest #6 Jan 7, 2020
Banded male #5163, here with his mate, he is 12 years old

They are in the Hilton breeding group. Can you find him?

Cupcake is here with Buddy who is starting to be on his own. Today he is 18 days old and has a good start. His parents have been fefdding him well and protecting him from the Skuas.

This banded male is 12 years old. He was first seen in the colony and bred when he was 5, but had a failed nest. In the following years, 2013 through 2017 he came to the colony but did not mate or make a nest. Finally, last year in 2018-2019 he mated and raised 2 chicks. His name P-nutbutter and his mate is Cupcake. They were named by the 2nd graders in Susan Cassidy's class at KT Murphy ES, Stamford, CT. The students in Alison Moody's 4th gr. class at T.A. lowery ES in Shennnandoah Junction, WV have named the frist chick Buddy. The second chick has arrived and was named Gunther by the students in Katelyn Walls' class at Ritchie Country MS, Harrisville, WV,

First egg: Nov 15, 2019, First chick hatched Dec 21, 2019.

Nest #7 Band #6574 - Male

Nest #7 Jan 7, 2020

Nov 4. Male waiting for his mate, he is 10 years old. Their nest is in the Cliffs group and protected by a large rock. Archie is here with Diamond and Pebbles.

This banded male has been around the colony every year since 2012 but only last year (as a 9 year old) raised his first chicks. His nest is in the Cliffs breeding group and has a large rock next to it. This is good protection from the Skuas. He has been named Archie by the 5th grade students in Joseph Archers's at Lakewood ES, Port Dover, Ontario, Canada. His mate showd up on Nov 7th and her name is Hot Pockets. She was named by the students in Judy Barrere's class at Holy Family School in Kirkland, WA. The first chick has been named Diamond by the students in Dana Jensen's 1st graders at Riverdale ES, Ogden, UT. The second chick was adopted by the students in Sandy Sullivan's class at Old Hamilton ES in Mattapoisett, MA. Her name is Pebbles.

First egg: Nov 14, 2019. First chick hatched Dec 19, 2019, Second chick Dec 21, 2019

Nest #8 Band #2363 - Male Nest #8 Jan 7, 2020.

Nov 11, the 20 year old male arrives and is builidng his nest. Their nest is in the Cliffs breeding group where this male raised 2 chicks last year. Both parents are near the nest, Manu and Mohamed are staying with their friends. This was a strong nest and raised 2 healthy chicks.

This banded male is 20 years old and was here at this same nesting spot last year with a different female. They raised 2 chicks. They have built a nest in the Cliffs breeding group and are surrounded by rocks and other birds for protection against the Skua. This year the female is Rift and the male is Wolfi by the students in Peggi Knight's classroom at Prince Williams School, Manassas, VA. The chicks are named by the students in Reinhard Marx's class at the Staedische Realschule Sundern, in Sundern Germany. They are Manu and Mohamed.

First egg: Nov 11, 2109. First chick: Dec 17, 2019

Nest #9 Male #5197 Nest #9 Jan 2, 2020
#5197 and his mate. They arrived Nov 2 and we saw the first egg on Nov 7. This pair has the same nesting site as last year. Can you find the banded bird? Jimin and an empty nest. Something has happened to Shrek. This nest has failed

This pair was in our study last year and raised 2 chicks. They are in the same nest and the first egg was seen Nov 7, the SAME date as this year, right on schedule. This year their names are, Jimin and Peppa from the 7th grade classes of Melanie Poknis and Nafisa Reza at Thomas Viaduct MS, Maryland.The chick was name are Shrek. He was adopted by the students in J.William Hooper's class at the Charles Ellis Montessori Academy in Savannah, GA.

First egg: Nov 7, 2019, First chick: Dec 13, 2019

Jan 2, 2020, This nest has failed.

Nest #10 Male #4371 Nest #10 Dec, 21, 2019
Male #4371 and his mate. We first saw them on Nov 7th, 2019. This pair is in the same nest as last year.

This nest has failed. Chimi was here for 22 days without food or water. When the chicks hatched she had nothing to feed them. For some reason Changa did not return in time. This is a sad day,

This pair was able to raise 2 chicks last year, and they are back for another try. They are in the same spot as last year and a good breeding group with many birds around them for protection. This year their names are Chimi, female and Changa, male. They were named by the students in Joni Nesbitt's class at Hunters Bend ES, Franklin, TN. The chicks will be named Hope by the students in Emily Young's 3rd gr class at Cunningham ES, Witchital Falls, TX. The second chick will be Flipper adopted by the 2nd graders in Jennifer Saldutti's class at Mohansic ES.

First egg: Nov 10, 2019. First chick: Dec 15, 2019

Nest #11 Band #62888 - Female Nest #11 Jan 7, 2020

This 7 year old female arrived today Nov 13 Their nest is in the Cliff group and near a large rock. Can you find them?   Leia is here with Chewy.who is growing fast. He is just under 2 weeks old and already bigger than some of the other chicks.

This banded female is 7 years old, they were in our study last year, and raised one chick. This is here second year to breed. She was first seen in the colony in 2015. They have a very secure nest in the Cliffs and lots of neighbors. The male is Luke and she is Leia. They were named by the students in Genny Kahlweiss' class at Saint Columban School in Garden Grove, CA. They have also named the chicks Chewy and Cherry.

First egg: Nov 15, 2019. First chick hatched Dec 22, 2019 The second egg never hatched.