Winter distribution and behaviour of gentoo penguins Pygoscelis papua at South Georgia
Knowledge of the spatial and temporal dynamics of foraging penguins is important to our understanding of the Southern Ocean marine ecosystem. We use satellite tracking to provide the first data on the distribution and behaviour of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) during the winter at South Georgia. Five penguins tracked from Bird Island remained close inshore, and although they did not return to the initial tagging site, they did appear to return to land each evening. They made diurnal trips to sea of similar distance from land as those during the breeding season, even though the constraints of chick rearing were absent. Despite potential greater flexibility in their responses to variations in prey availability in winter, the penguins still returned to land each night. This may reflect benefits from conserving energy by resting on land, possibly facilitating information exchange and avoiding predation. The distribution and behaviour of gentoo penguins during the winter enables efficient exploitation of a dynamic, patchy prey resource and may ultimately determine the timing of return to the colony, and onset of breeding in the following season.
Authors: Tanton, Jane L., Reid, Keith, Croxall, John P., Trathan, Phil N.