Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Interesting penguins

About a week ago GrrlScientist posted a note with a photo of a penguin near Granholm Hut, Antarctica by Brett Jarrett that is lacking black pigmentation. It is not completely lacking pigmentation so it is not albino but the feathers that are supposed to be black are a creamy colored white. You can see the photo here. In the comments to this post, Tony Pym discuss the different terms for abnormal plumages, particularly those lacking normal black pigments. Tony also has a link in this post here where he has photos of a number of oddly pigmented penguins too.

As I noted in my comments to GrrlScientist, this is not an entirely rare event, probably made more obvious by their obviousness and the magnitude of the breeding population concentrated in one area making these anomalies more apparent.

I have found a number of odd looking penguins and penguin eggs in my work in Antarctica including a pair of Albino chicks about a year ago on Heroina Island in the Danger Island group in the Weddell Sea side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here are some photos of those birds.

Note the lack of pigmentation in the bill.

Close-up of the eye of this bird. No pigmentation.

I also have a few photos of a pied chick I photographed on Torgersen Island near Palmer Station about 10 years ago and a King Penguin that has black feathers where the white feathers should be from South Georgia, and an emerald colored egg from King George Island but they are all slides or printed photos. I will post them here when I get them scanned.

Here are a couple of photos of a penguin that I photographed on Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea about 7 years ago. It was found by another guest onboard the National Geographic Endeavour and he showed it to me. He found it weathering out of a snowbank and it appeared to have been buried in the snow for quite a few years before being exposed. It looked like the remains of an Emperor Penguin to me.

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