Top 10 Spectacular Birds of Antarctica
Antarctica is a Paradise - A gift to Penguins by nature
Map of Antarctica
Colourful spectacular Birds
While talking about Antarctica, which bird will strike your mind first ? Perhaps, the Penguin.
But there are about 45 other species of fantastic birds living and breeding in Antarctica. Against the backdrop of blue hues reflected by icebergs, numerous spectacular birds thrive there and some of them are really colourful birds.
Antarctica, containing about 70% of world's freshwater, offers fantastic opportunities to experience seabird life. This happens in spite of extremely cold conditions prevailing where these birds have to adapt to live and breed.
Stay with me to watch 10 beautiful birds of Antarctica.
#1. Emperor Penguin
Penguins are flightless birds and the Emperor Penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living species of penguins. They can grow up to 4 ft. and weigh between 22 to 45 kgs, males normally weigh more than females. They stay in very harsh environment with sub-zero temperature but are quite capable of adapting themselves to these conditions.
There are similarities in colours of the male and female penguins. Their dorsal feathers are deep black which cover their back, dorsal flippers and tail while also their head, throat and chin. Big portion of their bellies are white with pale yellow upper breast and bright yellow ear patches.
Female penguins lay one egg but the incubating job is with the males. In the mean time females move to the sea for about two months for hunting and return with big belly full of food for the chicks. Surprisingly, while keeping the eggs warm males do not eat anything but move to sea after the females return. Fantastic, how faithful they are to each other.
Emperor Penguin is now a nearly threatened category of conservation status due to decline of food as a result of climatic changes.
$2. Wandering Albatross
Wandering Albatrosses are one of the largest birds in the world and known for spending most of their life span in flight. The only time they are seen on land is for mating, feeding and raising their young ones, large colonies are seen during this period. Also, they have the largest wingspan, may cross even 11 ft and they are long lived bird, going to even 50 years. The large wings help them to fly for miles over ocean without flapping their wings and even glide for hours together.
They have white bodies with white and black wings. Males have faint peach spot on the side of the head, pink large bill and pink feet. Their salt gland above the nasal passage helps to desalinate their bodies. They feed themselves on small fish and crustaceans. They are capable of following ship hoping in search of food in garbage.
They are hunted for their feathers and are vulnerable for conservation status.
#3. Southern Giant Petrel
Southern Giant Petrel is a large seabird with a wing span nearing 200 cms. Out of the two morphs, the darker one has a grey-brown body but the head, breast and neck are whitish. It has very large yellow bill with greenish tip. It gives a hunchbacked appearance while in flight.
It has a large range from Antarctica to Chile, Africa and Australia. Nesting is done in ice-free coastal areas and many of them are known for returning to the same nest every breeding season. They prefer krill, squid and fish for feeding themselves. The conservation status of the species is of the least concern.
Other Names: Antarctic Giant Petrel, Giant Fulmar, Stinker, Stinkpot
#4. Imperial Shag
With 40 species of Cormorants and Shags in the Phalacrocoracidae family, there is no consistency in their distinction. Imperial Shag is covered with glossy black feathers and the belly and neck are white. Legs and feet are pinkish and the eyes have a ring of blue skin. With a large global population, they are native to Antarctic Peninsula, Sub-Antarctic Islands and southern parts of Southern America.
They breed in colonies which are relatively small and shared with others.Their nests are made of grass and seaweeds. Their 2 to 3 chicks are vulnerable to predators.
They feed on small fish, crustaceans, squid and they are capable of catching its food by pursuit-diving for which they may travel some distance even.
Other Names: Blue-eyed Shag, Blue-eyed Cormorant, King Comorant
#5. Snowy Sheathbill
Snowy Sheathbill is the only land bird without webbed feet at Antarctica. It is called snowy because it is pure white in colour except its face which is pink. It is found on Sub-Antarctic Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. Migration to South America and Falkland Islands happens in winter.
It regularly roosts on one leg and finds its food on land. It nests under a rock or in a crevice and fights during courtship periods. Normally 2 to 3 eggs are laid. It is omnivorous and believes in stealing food like fish, eggs, small chicks of breeding penguins.
It is not a threatened species globally.
Other Names: Greater Sheathbill, Pale-faced Sheathbill, Paddy
#6. Wilson's Storm-petrel
Wilson's Storm Petrel is a small gregarious seabird. With dark brown plumage excepting the flanks and the rump which are white. It has long thin legs and feet which are black but the feet has yellow webbing. It is one of the most abundant species breeding in Antarctic coastlines and nearby islands. It migrates and spends autumn in Northern Hemisphere as a non-breeding season.
While hovering over water with quite low with its feet skimming, it picks up food from water surface. It feeds on crustaceans and fish.
It is species with least concern on conservation status.
Other Names: Wilson's Petrel, Flat-clawed or Yellow-webbed Storm-Petrel
#7. Brown Skua
Brown Skua is a large sea bird which breeds in some areas of the Antarctica, South Georgia and New Zealand. They are very heavy, noisy and known for belligerent postures and attacking penguins. They feed themselves on fish, small mammals, eggs and other birds and serve as scavengers also. They stay near sea for securing their food but move to dry lands for nesting and breeding. They are opportunistic birds and there is no consensus about their classification. They are not threatened birds.
Other Names: Antarctic Skua, Subantarctic Skua, Southern Skua, Southern Great Skua,
#8. Kelp Gull
Kelp Gull is distinguished from other Gulls because of upper parts and wings which are very black and pale yellow-green legs. The head, tail and underparts are white but the bill is yellow with a red spot. The eye is yellow and surrounded by with orange-red ring.
Kelp Gull is not only spread over Antarctica and many sub-antarctic islands but found on coasts and islands throughout the Southern Hemisphere. Breeding occurs between September and January. They are monogamous and breed in colonies. Their diet includes fish, worms, arthropods, reptiles, amphibians and they also believe in scavenging.
Other Names: Dominican Gull
#9. Cape Petrel
Cape Petrel has distinctive pattern of colours with black-and-white chequered plumage. It has black head and neck but the upper parts are black and white. The legs, feet and bill are black.
They are quite common seabirds in the Southern Sea and they breed in colonies of the Antarctic continent and near New Zealand sub-temperate islands. They are quite quarrelsome and noisy on food and nest issues. The species is not threatened. A single large egg is laid in November and incubation period is about one and a half month. They live on small fish, squid and amphipods.
Other Names: Cape Pigeon, Pintado Petrel
#10. Macaroni Penguin
Once most numerous, now threatened
Macaroni penguin is markedly different because of the yellow crest arising out of the central part of the forehead. Its beak is also peculiar, bulbous with orange-brown colour. Its legs and feet are pink and eys are red. In contrast with the white underparts it has black chin, throat and head along with some underparts differentiating from white.
It used to be the most numerous among penguin species, but it is reduced to threatened status of conservation. It ranges from from Sub-antarctic to Antarctic Peninsula and lives in large and dense colonies on rocky coasts and lower cliffs during breeding. They lay two eggs, the first one is smaller than the second which comes 4-5 days later. This large and flightless species believes in killing small fish and cephalopods.