Global warming has been blamed for the death of nearly 150,000 Adelie penguins after an iceberg 60 miles long and covering 1,120 square miles became lodged in their bay at Cape Denison in East Antarctica forcing them to march 70 miles in search of food such as Antarctic krill, ice krill, Antarctic silverfish, sea krill and glacial squid.
The colony, which has been recorded there for more than a century, has reportedly shrunk from 160,000 birds to just 10,000 since 2011, according to scientists at Climate Change Research Center at Australia’s University of New South Wales, who believe that they will exterminated within the next 5-years unless the sea ice breaks up or the giant iceberg, dubbed B09B, is somehow dislodged. Meanwhile another colony located just 5-miles away on the edge of the sea ice is thriving.
One of the main problems faced by the Adelies is that, while they may trek incredible distances to find food, they do not migrate, but rather stick to the colony where they were hatched and attempt to return to the same mate and nest.
“They don’t deviate from this lifestyle,” Chris Turney, professor of Climate Change and Earth Sciences at the University of New South Wales, told the Morning Herald. “They’re stuck there. They’re dying. The ones that are surviving are clearly struggling. They can barely survive themselves, let alone hatch the next generation. We saw lots of dead birds on the ground. it’s just heartbreaking to see.”
The situation is only expected to get worse for other animals there in the future as more ice icebergs break away from Antarctica and just embed themselves along the coastline as the planet continues to warm.”
Adelies are mid-sized penguins, which grow to about 18-28” in height and weigh between 8-13 lbs, and are distinguished by white ring surrounding the eye and the feathers at the base of their red bills.
Found only on the shores around the Antarctic continent, Adelie penguins breed from October-February, laying 2-egss in rough nests of stones. Both parents take turn incubating the eggs (usually in shifts of 12-days) for periods of 32- 34 days. The chicks then remain in the nest for about 3-weeks before joining crèches. They then shed into their juvenile plumage and go out to sea after 50 to 60 days.
Although the Denison colony is in grave danger, a 2014 analysis of fresh guano-discolored coastal areas, has led scientists to estimate that there are 3.79 million breeding pairs of Adelie penguins in 251 breeding colonies, a 53% increase over a census completed during the mid 1980s.