Christmas is for Penguins

They’re everywhere.

On Christmas cards, wrapping paper, paper table cloths and serviettes, decorating websites selling everything from Black Norfolk turkeys to Useless Gadgets for Kids.

They even consort with polar bears.

Rockhopper, Falklands

No. that’s impossible.  The bears roam the Arctic at the top of our planet. Penguins, all seventeen species of them, build their stone and stick nests or burrows at the bottom.  More than 9,000 miles lie between the Antarctic and Arctic.  But not all penguins live on the snows and ice of the Antarctic continent.  Some live on islands and mainlands further north.  There’s the laughing jackass penguin on the southern tip of South Africa and another species lives just north of the equator on the Galapagos islands, but they’re nowhere near any polar bears. There have been claims in the past that penguins have been sighted in the Arctic but these were probably auks – birds that are tubby, upright and black and white.  They waddle when they walk.  The give away is that they can fly, albeit clumsily – true penguins can’t fly.

To see penguins, try to visit the Falkland Islands, if you can manage a winter get-away-from-it-all holiday.

Jean on Falkland Islands

Recently I saw 6 different species of penguin there.  Rockhoppers are the funniest as they toddle seriously up and down rocky paths in long queues. There are many colonies on the Falklands.

Magellanic Penguin with Chick

Magellanic penguins were named after Ferdinand Magellan who sailed round South America in 1519.  The early sailors thought the chicks were a different species and named them Furry Penguins. Magellanics are shy and live in burrows.

Gentoo Penguins

The Falklands are the main home of Gentoos with their white ‘bonnet’ and bright orange beaks.

King Penguin and Chick

And the second largest penguin, the King Penguin, also rears its young in these islands. It lives further north than the largest penguin, the Emperor, which is the one you see among Antarctic snows and gales.

The colonies stink.  They’re noisy, large and leave a huge mess that takes several years to recover.  The parents are for ever on the watch against marauding Brown Skuas who’ll snatch any unattended chick. On West Point Island rockhoppers live among the mud pyramid nests of Black Browed Albatross. The albatross fiercely attack any skuas, but don’t harm rockhopper chicks.






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