The Falklands – Rockhopper Penguins

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After two Falkland posts that repeat Gentoo Penguin images and information it is certainly time to move on.

Let’s move to Rockhopper Penguins, another of the smallish penguins. This bird belongs to the “crested penguin” group and is the smallest of those. This group; Rockhopper, Fjoirdland Crested, Macaroni, Erect-crested, and Snares are characterized by a yellow or orange flag of plume-like feathers that arise near the base of the bill and flag out over the side of the head. This is what was called “macaroni” in Yankee Doodle Dandy song. Rockhoppers nest pretty much all around the southern end of our globe; that is they are circumpolar. There are two populations (subspecies) and both of them are found on islands well north of the continental ice of Antarctica.

The erect feather give the Rockhopper a bit of a punk look. The bill is dark red and feathered extensively on the underside.
These are noisy birds. The nesting colonies are raucous with calling and braying throughout the day. Incubation takes about 5 weeks, two eggs are laid with the first egg smaller than the second. Invariably the first chick does not survive. The nesting colonies are closely associated with nesting Black-browed Albatross colonies.
Nesting colonies can be quite dense. The birds are just of reach of their neighbor but that doesn’t stop them from stealing nest pebbles from each other – over and over again. The nest sites can be quite some distance inland and upland as well. Many colonies are essentially on cliff faces and the birds have to climb and scramble to and from the nest.
Some paths to the colony are over nice dry and rather smooth rock. Other pathways are battered by waves and replete with near vertical slopes.
Like most penguins fear isn’t apart of their day. They are not land-based but seem just as confident on land as in the water. As a matter of fact land may be safer for them as there are no predators of adult birds on land though there are a few birds that will steal and eat eggs. Once in the water there are a few marine mammals that will chase, catch, and eat penguins.
The extensive human harvesting of krill, squid, and forage fish is having a significant negative impact on these birds.
It is pretty simple; no food, no reproduction.

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