As sunset fell on Australia’s Phillip Island last week, thousands of tiny black-and-white birds took part in the largest “penguin parade” seen on the island since records began in the early 1990s. 1960, with more than 5,200 little penguins (Small Eudyptula) across the beach in one night.
Phillip Island – known as Millowl to the indigenous Bunurong people – is home to Australia’s largest colony of small penguins, currently numbering around 40,000, according to Penguin Foundation, a group that funds research and conservation efforts on the island. This is the world’s smallest penguin; According to Australian Museum.
Every day at sunset, a flock of Philip Island penguins swim ashore after hunting fish, squid, mollusks and small crustaceans in the ocean, then head inland towards their nesting grounds. they. The event, known to locals as the “Penguin Parade,” draws a large number of tourists to the Phillip Island Nature Parks, where visitors can “sit and watch the birds on the wing.” amphibians emerge from the water for 50 minutes” every night, Paula Wasiak, a Phillip Island Nature Parks Field Researcher, told Live Science in an email.
“Penguin viewing has been going on in the same place for over 50 years and these birds have a habit of being active every night,” she said. (If you can’t get to the island in person, you can also watch live streams of the parade on Facebook or YouTube.)
At sunset on May 3, an unusually large number of penguins joined the parade, when 5,219 small penguins rushed ashore at once and then flew back to their burrows.
Related: Here’s why a new colony of penguins in Antarctica is cause for concern
Wasiak said in a declare.
To count the birds, Wasiak told Live Science, park rangers station themselves at four main penguin “highways” – dedicated roads that the little birds always use to get to shore. . “The little penguins walk in groups, with the same penguins using the same path every time they enter the colony,” she said, and during the 50-minute parade, the staff members The ranger counts every bird that crosses these paths.
The record for the island’s largest penguin parade was broken last week, on April 29, when 4,592 birds flew ashore at once, Wasiak told Live Science. According to ABC Gippslanda local news station owned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Overall, May’s parades have a surprisingly high number of penguins, with between 3,000 and 5,000 birds marching each night. “It’s been a night after night of penguin parties, which is unusual for this time of year, let alone the record numbers we’re seeing,” Wasiak said in the statement. Historically, the biggest parades take place in November and December, at the height of the bird’s breeding season, according to the Penguin Foundation.
Why have the penguin parades this month grown to such a remarkable size? It’s possible that this year’s La Niña event – where strong trade winds sweep across the Pacific Ocean, from South America to Indonesia – could boost the bird’s offshore food supply, which means more bird species congregating in coastal waters rather than foraging farther afield. far.
The little penguins mainly eat small fish, such as anchovies, which can only survive in a narrow range of temperatures, Wasiak told Live Science. “It shows that during La Niña years, ocean conditions around Phillip Island are often ideal for an abundant fish/food supply close to shore,” she said.
Normally, when they’re not breeding, the penguins can spend up to a month feeding at sea, Wasiak told ABC Gippsland. With food closer to shore, the penguins instead make quick turnaround trips and return to the beach in time for the nightly parade.
In addition to the lengthy La Niña event, the large parade attendance may be related to a phenomenon known as “fall breeding efforts,” where older penguins in the flock attempt to reproduce. outside the peak mating season, Wasiak told Live Science. This breeding effort is often initiated by an increase in the number of penguins foraging.
Wasiak told Live Science.
“One of the main areas where we’ve seen an increase in penguin populations is in the eastern part of the colony. Previously, poor habitat and erosion in this area meant that penguins were hard to come by. approach and nest there,” Wasiak said in the Park’ statement. “A lot of work has been done to improve dune structure, create penguin paths and restore habitat, which is now paying off.”
Originally published on Live Science.
https://www.livescience.com/record-breaking-penguin-parade-australia 5,000 of the world’s smallest penguins waddle onto Australian beach in record-breaking parade