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Celebrate World Penguin Day by Counting Penguin Chicks with Oxford Researchers

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World Penguin Day! Yes, it's real and is an opportunity to celebrate some of the wackiest and most wonderful birds on the planet. World Penguin Day is celebrated on April 25, 2022.

3 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Penguins

King penguins in South Georgia

Penguins have been studied for over a hundred years, and during this time they have become iconic. The stereotypical images of penguins tend to be a bird walking upright or sitting on an iceberg, but they are so much more diverse and impressive than this.

  1. Penguins are fierce predators. We don't tend to think of penguins as predators, but they spend most of their time at sea, feeding on krill, squid, and fish, depending on the species. suggest swapping the sentence order: They are very effective hunters and ambush their prey from underneath, but this happens at depth (30-50m for Gentoo penguins, up to 500m for Emperors).
  2. Penguins are sexy. In the public eye, they have a cute and faithful image, but many of the stereotypes are incomplete or untrue. One of the early scientists on Scott's expedition who reported back on the sexual habits of Adélie penguins was so shocked by the promiscuity and sexual behaviour that he ‘coded' his notes in Greek.
  3. Penguins are not just in Antarctica. They are birds that evolved in cold waters but have radiated to also colonize hot regions like the Galapagos and South Africa. They might have gone further if not for species in the north already occupying their niche. Indeed, it is likely we get the word ‘penguin' from the Welsh for Great Auk, an extinct seabird in the northern hemisphere that looked like a penguin.

Penguin Watch Research: What Is It?

Here at the University of Oxford and with a lot of help from Quark Expeditions in Antarctica we have been placing time-lapse cameras near penguin colonies around Antarctica to see if there are differences in the timing and success of breeding (both between colonies and across years). Our research aims to understand:

  • Why these populations are changing and what we can do about it
  • How do areas with a fishery compare to those without a fishery
  • How do areas with sea ice loss compare to areas with more stable sea ice

Our cameras record thousands of images each year and we couldn't process this amount of data without the help of our amazing citizen scientists who classify, penguins, eggs, chicks and others on our website.

Screenshot of Penguin Watch Citizen Science project interface

So, on World Penguin Day, why not spend a few minutes helping us to count penguins on By clicking on penguins, you can explore Antarctica through the eyes of colony cameras and help make a difference to conservation.

What's the Future of Penguin Research?

In the twenty-first century and despite a hundred years of study, it might be surprising to hear that there is still a lot we want to learn about penguins. Whereas historic studies have typically focussed on isolated colonies, many of the current big questions concern global trends.

Headshot of lead penguinologist Dr. Tom Hart, from Penguin Watch. Emperor penguins can be seen in the background

A photo of Penguinologist Dr. Tom Hart with Emperor Penguins in the background.
Photo: Nicky Souness

Recently, remote sensing through satellite imagery detected Emperor penguins on ice from their poo and found that there are twice as many as previously thought, and work on Adélie penguins has shown that they are declining along the northern half of the Western Antarctic Peninsula, there are more than we thought in East Antarctica and the population increase in the latter region offsets the decline observed on the Antarctic Peninsula.

It's also worth noting that 12 of the 18 species of penguins found on Earth are in decline (as are many seabirds around the world).

So, in order to support penguin conservation, it's important to understand the mechanisms underlying any observed changes. Penguin Watch aims to fill some of the present knowledge gaps, and that's why we'd love it if you got involved this World Penguin Day.

Learn More About Penguins

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