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August 20, 2018

Return of Bird of the Week: Macaroni Penguin

Macaroni Penguins, despite their silly name, are another amazing mountaineering species of penguin. These photos are all from a bouncing Zodiac rubber raft; we couldn’t make a landing where the Macaroni Penguins routinely did.

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia Island

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia Island

Note the different bill structure. The Macaroni’s bill is adapted for a different genus of krill, its primary prey, resulting the bulbous shape. The feathers in the crown appear to be a sexual display thing.

This is the landing for the Macaroni colony.

Note the areas of bare rock, where the algae and barnacles are worn off by the passage of thousands of Macaroni feet. This is the start of the their long, steep climb up to the breeding colony.

This is an unnamed headland on South Georgia Island. But if we zoom in with a telephoto lens, what looks like random gravel scree on the steep-sided slope turns out to be the breeding colony.

Why nest on a steep, rocky headland? Because it’s exposed to wind, and the wind blows the snow off the headland earlier, making it available for nesting sooner. The energy expended in climbing up to this colony apparently is balanced out by the increased time for egg incubation and raising the chicks.

Another extraordinary bird in the deep Southern Ocean.

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