Latin name: Pygoscelis adeliae
Population: at least 2.6 million pairs; 10 million immature animals
Conservation Status: Least Concern (IUCN, 2009)
Length: 70-71 cm
Weight: 3.8 to 8.2 kg
Adélie penguins lay one or two eggs, each weighing 100g to 125g. The eggs are incubated alternatively by each parent for a period of 30-40 days. This short incubation period (in comparison with that of Gentoo or Chinstrap penguins) is due to the short Antarctic summer.
Newly-hatched chicks are incubated by one parent while the other feeds at sea, with changes in incubation duties taking place every 1 to 3 days. This guard phase lasts 22 days and is followed by a crèche phase during which both parents forage at sea, and unattended chicks gather in small groups of 3 to 20 chicks, called crèches. This reduces the risk of predation and helps to protect the chicks from severe weather. Fledging occurs after 52 to 61 days, with an average of 77% of chicks surviving to fledge.
Adélie penguins are shallow divers, and like all other penguin species they feed by pursuit, pecking out their food as they swerve from side to side under water.
They feed mainly on Antarctic krill, ice krill, Antarctic silverfish, and Glacial Squid (diet varies depending on geographic location) during the chick-rearing season.
They are not globally threatened. Antarctic giant petrels and skuas are the primary predators of chicks in colonies. Leopard seals take young when they enter the sea after moulting and adults. Adults are also taken by killer whales. Long-term global warming may be responsible for the current population decline.
They are the smallest and most widely distributed penguins in the Antarctic. They are easily recognised by their big black head, the black chin, the black back and the white belly.
Adélie penguins are rarely found north of 60°S, and always remain entirely south of the Polar Front, living on the Antarctic Continent and nearby islands. They prefer to live within the pack ice, but small numbers colonize the South Shetland, South Orkney and South Sandwich islands.
- The Adélie penguin is named after the wife of the French Antarctic explorer Dumont d’Urville.
- Adélies are responsible for the habitual comparison of penguins to little men in evening clothes.
- Studies with Adélies indicate that they use the sun to navigate from land to sea. They adjust for the sun’s changing position in the sky throughout the day.
- Hadoram Shirihai, A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife (2002)
- David McGonigal & Lynn Woodworth, Antarctica and the Arctic. The complete encyclopedia (2001)