There are several penguin species
to be found living in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean region. Many large breeding
colonies are to be found in the valleys and on the beaches of South Georgia
and the Falkland Islands. The King penguins above are only just reaching adulthood
and are still part of a 'creche' on a beach in South Georgia. These creches
may consist of hundreds of near adult chicks busy growing in their adult plumage.
Adult King penguins spend much time at sea hunting for food. Keeping plumage waterproof and in good condition is vital with water temperatures being so low. Such maintenance is also very important during the breeding season, when adult penguins must be in top condition to successfully find a mate.
Gentoo penguins are smaller than King penguins and commonly nest further inland. Their 'rookeries' can be very noisy and smelly places indeed. Numbers of Gentoo penguins have boomed in the last few years, although their numbers generally depend on the abundance of krill (small crustaceans), which are their main food supply.
In a good year most pairs of adult Gentoo penguins will raise two chicks. The nest is very rudimentary, consisting of a few rocks and feathers arranged in a rough saucer shape. Much time and effort is spent on stealing nest material from other pairs when the chance arises.
It is the policy of scientists working near such penguin rookeries to keep disturbance to a minimum and to keep to the edge of the rookery area. However, Gentoo penguins on South Georgia have little or no fear of humans. In fact the chicks can be quite inquisitive and actually follow you about, being especially interested in bootlaces!
Other penguins commonly to be found
on the beaches of South Georgia and the Falkland islands are Chinstrap penguins
(so named for their distinctive black collars) and Macaroni penguins who are
also often seen at sea in fast swimming groups, ducking and diving through the
waves in search of food.