Kings of Lusitania Bay

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This week at Macquarie Island: 2 September 2011

Lusitania Bay, on east coast of the island, is a very special place. This bay is the location of one of the biggest king penguin rookeries in the world. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s the penguins were valued for their oil, and many were harvested to extract that oil. However, the colony at Lusitania Bay was never completely destroyed, and protection of the species has allowed the colony to successfully recover. It is estimated that during the breeding season there are 100,000 birds at Lusitania Bay.

A king penguin pair generally successfully raises a maximum of 2 chicks every three years. It may take 14-16 months from courtship to the fledging of the chick. Both parents share incubation of the egg and brooding of the chick, which takes approximately 15 weeks. King penguins have no nests and their eggs are incubated on the adults' feet. The chicks quickly gain weight during the summer, and then maintain their body weight through the long winter, before moulting in spring. By the time the young penguins are finally mature enough to leave the island it is summer, when food is plentiful and conditions are more favorable for the young to survive alone.

The photos below show what the colony looks like before the majority of the penguins return for breeding. The bay beaches are covered with chicks in large groups (crèches) with some adults also present. Over the past two to three weeks the Park Rangers have travelled the coast to complete a census of the chicks – counting every one of them!

King penguin creches on Lusitania Bay
King penguin creches on Lusitania Bay
(Photo: Trish M)
Adult King penguin looking after chicks
Adult King penguin looking after chicks
(Photo: Trish M)
Digesters
Digesters - used to extract oil from penguins
(Photo: Trish M)
Try pot
Try pot - used to render Elephant Seal blubber down to oil
(Photo: Trish M)
King penguins
King penguins
(Photo: Trish M)
Sleeping king penguin
Sleeping king penguin
(Photo: Trish M)
Leopard seal - unusual at Maquarie Island and a seal predator
Leopard seal - unusual at Maquarie Island and a seal predator
(Photo: Trish M)
Rainbow over the Lusitania coast
Rainbow over the Lusitania coast
(Photo: Trish M)
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