King Penguin In the Falklands, King penguins are at the northerly limit of their global range. Early records suggest that numbers were never very high, but by 1870 they had been almost exterminated, killed for their oil and beautiful feathers. By 1971 they had returned and have steadily increased in numbers since then. This is a worldwide trend, with numbers increasing throughout their entire range. It is thought that the population expansion in the Falklands may be due to overcrowding at South Georgia. The current population of King Penguins in the Falklands is c.1000 breeding pairs with 400-500 chicks fledging each year.
Gentoo Penguin The Falklands are critical for the survival of this circumpolar species with the Islands supporting the largest gentoo population in the world population. Numbers fluctuate from year to year but over a 75-year period have remained relatively stable at 100,000 pairs. In 2010 Falklands Conservation recorded a total of 121,500 pairs at 101 different breeding sites around the Islands. In 2005 numbers had been decreased dramatically by a poisonous algal bloom in 2002/03, but by 2007 there were signs of a strong recovery in numbers.
Rockhopper Penguin There has been a dramatic decline (estimated at 80%) in the population of Rockhoppers over at least the past 80 years. In 1995, Falklands Conservation counted 300,000 breeding pairs (600,000 birds); in 2005 this number was down to 210,400 pairs. The reasons for this decline are not yet fully understood and are in line with similar reductions in other crested penguin populations elsewhere in the world (Auckland, Antipodes and Campbell Islands).
A detailed analysis is available to subscribers of Waterbirds (www.waterbirds.org/journal.htm) entitled: Re-evaluation of Historical Rockhopper Penguin Population Data in the Falkland Islands by Klemens Putz, Andrea P Clausen, Nic Huin and John P Croxall. Ref: Waterbirds 26 (2): 169-175, 2003
Many Rockhopper penguins were poisoned by the Harmful Algal Bloom of 2002/03. It is thought that changes in ocean productivity and temperatures, possibly driven by climate change negate recovery from such population crashes. The most recent 2010 census indicates that breeding pairs have increased since 2005 and numbers are similar to those ten years ago.
Falklands Conservation continues to actively research, monitor and protect this special bird, which has been adopted for its symbol in the charity’s logo.
The Rockhopper Penguin had been considered as a single species throughout its circum-polar range, where it breeds on sub-Antarctic oceanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean and to the south of New Zealand. Birds from the three areas show differences in appearance notably in size, length of the crest plumes, the underside of the flipper and the skin colour at the birds gape.
Following new research recently reviewed by BirdLife International, who manage the species red list of birds on behalf of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, there is sufficient evidence to split Rockhopper penguins into two separate distinct species, the Southern Rockhopper Penguin, which breeds in the Falklands, and the Northern Rockhopper Penguin which breeds on Tristan da Cunha, Gough, Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands.
The Southern Rockhopper is split into 2 sub-species: Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome breeds in the Falklands and South America, whilst Eudyptes chrysocome filholi breeds on Marion, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard, Macquarie, Campbell, Auckland and Antipodes Islands.
The Southern Rockhopper Penguin is classified as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN red list. The Falklands hold 36% percentage of the world population of Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome.
Macaroni Penguin In the Falklands, Marcaroni penguins are at the northerly limit of their global range. It is the most numerous penguin species in the world, but only a tiny proportion come to the Islands to breed, where they nest within Rockhopper penguin colonies (at 19 sites in the 2005 census). More than 80% of these are on the eastern coasts of the Falklands, closest to South Georgia which holds the majority of the global population (2.7 million pairs). They are likely to be susceptible to environmental change as the Rockhopper penguin. Macaroni penguins are noted in the Falkland Islands for breeding with Southern Rockhoppers and producing hybrid offspring.
Magellanic Penguin The Falklands hold an estimated 10% of the world population of this species, which is widely distributed around the extensive coastline of the archipelago. Magellanics are burrowing penguins and particularly 'shy'. No island wide census has been conducted of this species due to its extensive breeding range and burrowing nature which makes it difficult to survey. It is also found all around the coasts of southern South America. There are concerns that accidental oil spills, discharge of waste by vessels offshore and along the South American coast, disturbance when nesting and shortage of food in some years are causing a decline in South Atlantic numbers, however this is currently unverified in the Falkland Islands.