Gentoo penguins - the quiet ones

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Wed 17 Feb 2016 00:45

King and macaroni penguins are gregarious, the kings generally occupying flat plains and beaches while the macaroni prefer tussock grass and rocky outcrops. Occasionally we had seen the odd gentoo penguin, alone on a beach but we hadn't visited a nesting site, these were not obvious.

Gentoos of the Olsen River

Gentoo penguins have had a very bad year. Their diet consists entirely of krill and in December / January when the eggs were due to hatch, there simply was no krill. Some parents never made it back to relieve their mate from egg duties and there wasn't enough food to feed those chicks that did hatch and most of them starved to death. This may explain why they were so quiet, when other people have described them as curious and gregarious.

The Olsen Valley, near Husvik, is home to a colony of gentoos. Much to our surprise, the map showed them inland, and true enough, there were none on the beaches. We found them a mile up the river, past a three metre high waterfall. "How did they get there?" we marvelled. "Up the waterfall or by trudging across the hillside?"

The birds were very quiet, standing around in small groups, some sleeping, others preening. There wasn't a single chick. We sat quietly on the opposite bank and one of them swam over to take a look at these strange penguin-like creatures.