Cape Royds Nest Check, 2018-19

Cape Royds is a small Adelie penguin breeding colony of about 2100 nests. In 2000 there were 4000 nests. The decline occurred when a large iceberg grounded about 60 km (40 miles) north and caused McMurdo Sound to be completely ice covered. This made it difficult for Royds penguins to reach the colony. Many penguins left Royds to find nests in colonies closer to open water.

In 2007 open water was only a few kilometers away and penguins started to return to Cape Royds. In 2008, the open water was again about 75 km away and the penguins had to walk further to get here, many did not, and there were fewer nests. About half of the nests that were started during 2007 were lost as the brooding parent could not wait for the foraging parent to return. Hunger forced them to abandon the eggs.

The open water was about a 2km from the colony at the start of the 2009 season, much easier for the penguins to reach the colony, but for some reason egg laying was delayed by several days. Delayed hatching meant that many chicks were not be ready when winter arrived.

In the 2011 season we had the biggest chicks ever as the ocean was close and food was plentiful. The 2013-14 season also provided early open water so it was a good year for the penguins, but we saw more Skuas than usual and predation was heavy. The 2015 season opened with the ocean at the entrance to the colony. These birds were able to swim all the way and had an easy time going for food to feed the chicks.

Nov 2016, we arrived to find the open ocean again 70 km (50 miles) north of the colony. 2016 was another year like 2008 with food so far away, parents were not able to return in time to feed chicks. Over 90%of the nests failed. It was a sad year.

Nov 2017 the ice edge was close and the birds had an easy time arriving to the colony and raising chicks.  It is a good year, with plenty of fat chicks.

We are eager to see how the 2018 season begins. Every season presents new mysteries to solve, join us as the 2018-19 season unfolds. Click HERE to see archived weather histories, HERE to see penguin families from 2011 – 2018. To see some of the postcards and flags that have been sent to Cape Royds, by children, all over the world go HERE and HERE.

Questions about this page? Email me.

Jean Pennycook:

cape_royds penguins_ice
Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarctica. Adelie penguins returning to their breeding colony.
Adelie penguins Going for food.
penguin chick
Two penguin eggs in a rock nest. Two Adelie penguin chicks


Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Breeding Nest Check 2018-2019

click on any picture to see a larger version


Nov 7, 2018, We are still selecting some of the penguins families for this seasons Nest Check.


Check out the new book about Adelie penguins and our research at Cape Royds, Antarctica. Joey hatched in 2008 and this story follows his life as he learns to be a penguin, builds his first nest, finds a mate and raises his own chicks. You can see more HERE.


Pictures of the Day, Nov 13, 2018

Pictures of the day are archived HERE




Click on the NEST # to see all the pictures from this season and read more about the history the birds. One bird in each pair is banded as a chick so we know their life story.



Since we can not go into the ocean to see what the penguins are eating, we have to wait for this. Yes we check their poop. This pink quano squit indicates krill.
Nest #1 Banded Bird    
Nest #2 Banded Bird #4235, Male Nest #2 Nov 13, 2018
penguin nest
The male is 11 years old this year and probably has the same mate as last year. This pair is in the exact same site they have been for the last 5 years. Two eggs, both parents are near the nest.
Nest #3 Banded Bird #3809, Female Nest #3 Nov 13, 2018
This female is now 15 years old. This is probably the same mate and they produced one chick last year. They have built a nest a few feet away from last years nesting site, but still in the same breeding group. The male is on the nest, 2 eggs.
Nest #4 Banded Bird #4202, Male Nest #4 Nov 13, 2018
This male has used this nesting site for several years, this is probably not the same mate as last year He is just right of the center rock, can you find him? Both parents, 1 egg. First egg was laid Nov 12, 2018
Nest #5 Banded Bird #4877, Female Nest #5 Nov 13, 2018
The banded bird has returned, very near to where the nest site was last year The nest is in the Rocks breeding group. Can you find them? Both parents are still near the nest, one egg.
Nest #6 Banded Bird #6268, Male Nest #6 Nov 13, 2018
This male is 10 years old and has been in this exact same site for 2 years. Probably the same mate. No picture yet Still no egg.
Nest #7 Banded Bird #29809, Male Nest #7, Nov 13, 2018
Our male arrives in the colony all clean. He is 11 years old, and this maybe the same mate as last year. The male has built his nest inthe same place for 5 years in a row. Both parents and at least one egg. The female is very clean. She must have taken a short trip to the ocean for food.
Nest #8 Banded Bird #2363, Male Nest #8 Nov 13, 2018
This male was in our study last year but has a new mate this season. He is 19 years old. He has built a nest a few feet from last years nest site. No egg yet.
Nest #9 Banded Bird # 5197, Male Nest #9 Nov 13, 2018
penguin nest
This male was in our study last year and failed to raise a chick. He is 11 years old now and perhaps has the same mate. Their nest site is a few feet away from last years site, The male is alone, there are 2 eggs. The female has returned to the open ocean to feed.
Nest #10 Banded Bird #4371, Male Nest #10 Nov 13, 2018
The male has arrived at his nest site and is building a nest out of rocks. Their nest is in the Cliffs breeding group with lots of neighbors Both parents, at least one egg.