Volume 47, No. 2

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Population size and condition of the Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri colony of Snow Hill Island, Weddell Sea, Antarctica: Observations from 29 December 2018


1Am Hasenpfahl 44, 31515 Wunstorf, Germany *(
2Triq Kemmuna, GSM 1450, Ghajnsielem, Malta
3Haidland 15, 21218 Seevetal, Germany


SCHIEL, R., GÜPNER, F. & SPITZENBERGER, H.-J. 2019. Population size and condition of the Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri colony of Snow Hill Island, Weddell Sea, Antarctica: Observations from 29 December 2018. Marine Ornithology 47: 189 - 192

Received 11 March 2019, accepted 30 April 2019

Date Published: 2019/10/15
Date Online: 2019/08/26
Key words: Emperor Penguin, Snow Hill Island colony, Weddell Sea, Antarctica, population size, moulting chicks, sea ice cover, climate change


Snow Hill Island is of particular importance because it is the site of the northernmost colony of Emperor Penguins Aptenodytes forsteri. The colony was first discovered and counted in 1997 and has been visited sporadically, with counts conducted in 2004, 2009, and 2013, ranging from 1 200-4 000 breeding pairs. In December 2018, we photographed the entire colony. From photos, we counted 2 679 chicks and 339 adult Emperor Penguins, corresponding to a population of at least 2 700 breeding pairs. Although the census took place late in the breeding cycle when some chicks had already left the colony, the population size is well above the censuses of 1997 and 2009 but significantly below counts from 2004 and 2013. Snow Hill Island, located off the Antarctic Peninsula coast, is in an area strongly influenced by recent climatic developments. The Dion Island colony on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula is also among the northernmost colonies, but it disappeared in 2009, presumably due to the climatic factors. Therefore, monitoring this Snow Hill colony is crucial.


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