A Species Action Plan for southern rockhopper penguins at the Falkland Islands has been completed and is now available for download.
New: A recent paper showing the dispersal of wintering crested penguins from the Falkland Islands and South Georgia is available to read at this open access link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jbi.12279/full
Ratcliffe, N., Crofts, S., Brown, R., Baylis, A.M.M., Adlard, S., Horswill, C., Venables. H., Taylor P., Trathan. P.N., Staniland, I.J. 2014. Love thy neighbour or opposites attract? Patterns of spatial segregation and association among crested penguin populations during winter. Journal of Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12279.
King penguins are the second largest species of penguin (Emperor penguin being the largest). They breed on several subantarctic islands, including South Georgia - but the Falklands population is particularly special! This is because the Falkland Isands population is the most temperate breeding site of king penguins in the world.
Pistorius P, Baylis A, Crofts S, Putz K. (2012) Population development and historical occurrence of King penguins at the Falkland Islands. Antarctic Science....
We deployed SIRTRACK satellite tags during winter 2011 on eight breeding king penguins for periods of 32 – 124 days. King penguins stop feeding their chicks for up to 5 months over winter, which allows them to undertake extended foraging trips that often exceed 50 days. This season, two of the eight satellite tracked king penguins have undertaken remarkable foraging trips over winter.....1800km (round trip) to the Antarctic and back! Combined, the data set (see figure below) represents 733 tracking days and 10,000 at-sea locations.
Our conservation work builds upon previous research to highlight multiple foraging strategies over winter and a degree of foraging plasticity that is simply awesome. The data is an important step towards identifying ecologically important areas at-sea; a goal of Falklands Conservation. We thank the WWF and the local land owners involved for sharing our passion in the conservation of marine biodiversity....
The rain, sleet and snow held off just long enough for us to deploy satellite tags on four young males (60 - 120 kg) and two young females (60 kg). This is the first time juveniles have been tracked at the Falklands, so we follow their movements over winter with much anticipation! Maps of foraging routes to follow shortly.
- Males can be up to 3 times larger than females, making the Southern sea lion the most sexually dimorphic of all sea lion species (Steller, New Zealand, Australian, Californian and Galapagos sea lion)
- Adult males weigh 350 kg, while females 80 - 170kg and reach over 2 meters in length....
In 1939 J.E Hamilton published his second report on Falklands’ southern sea lions. His reports are part of the Discovery Reports – the culmination of seminal multi-disciplinary research that involved a series of Antarctic cruises and land-based surveys between 1925 - 1951. Hamilton’s report contained a short note on the winter migration of southern sea lions. The note was based on his observations of the Cape Dolphin colony between 1935 – 1937. In summary, Hamilton suggested part of the Falkland Islands population may migrate away from the Islands during winter. His idea stuck. A quick internet search on southern sea lions reveals statements such as ‘the Falkland Islands are largely abandoned during the winter’, undoubtedly in reference to Hamilton’s salient work. However, while some females move to different haul out sites with their pups over winter and males disperse from breeding beaches, do sea lions really leave the Falklands entirely? A glance at Sealing on the Falkland Islands by local author J.R. Allen suggests that at least some sub-adult and adult males actually remain at the Falklands year round. A fact that I am sure many local land owners would also attest to.
Southern sea lions are top predators in our marine environment. That means that just like seabirds, sea lions play an important role in maintaining the health of our seas. It may come as a surprise, but southern sea lions are one of the least studied pinniped (seals, sea lions, walruses) despite their wide distribution (Chile, Falkland Islands, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina). Information gathered on this enigmatic and iconic animal is therefore important locally and globally.