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Journal Article
Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2014.  Chick production at the largest emperor penguin colony decreases by 50% from 2008-10. Antarctic Science. 26:33-37.   10.1017/s0954102013000515   AbstractWebsite

The emperor penguin colony at Coulman Island is reputedly the largest known. This reputation is based on intermittent ground and aerial surveys performed since 1958. From an aerial survey obtained on 28 October 2010 we discovered that the total number of chicks was 56% of the lowest previous estimate of 2006 and only 41% of the most recent estimate in 2008. All of the counts tallied since 1983 were determined either by ground counts or from aerial film or digital photographs, or estimates from adult counts. We also determined the sea ice conditions in autumn, which is close to the time the adults arrive to breed. We present three hypotheses of what might have happened from 2008-10 to cause the step change in chick production, the small recovery of chick numbers in 2011, and the complete recovery of number of adults from 2010-11. We conclude that local circumstances may have strongly influenced the breeding behaviour of the emperor penguins in 2010 and to a lesser degree in 2011 when many adults elected not to breed.

Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2017.  Rise and fall of Ross Sea emperor penguin colony populations: 2000 to 2012. Antarctic Science. 29:201-208.   10.1017/s0954102016000559   AbstractWebsite

There are seven emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) colonies distributed throughout the traditional boundaries of the Ross Sea from Cape Roget to Cape Colbeck. This coastline is c. 10% of the entire coast of Antarctica. From 2000 to 2012, there has been a nearly continuous record of population size of most, and sometimes all, of these colonies. Data were obtained by analysing aerial photographs. We found large annual variations in populations of individual colonies, and conclude that a trend from a single emperor penguin colony may not be a good environmental sentinel. There are at least four possibilities for census count fluctuations: i) this species is not bound to a nesting site like other penguins, and birds move within the colony and possibly to other colonies, ii) harsh environmental conditions cause a die-off of chicks in the colony or of adults elsewhere, iii) the adults skip a year of breeding if pre-breeding foraging is inadequate and iv) if sea ice conditions are unsatisfactory at autumn arrival of the adults, they skip breeding or go elsewhere. Such variability indicates that birds at all Ross Sea colonies should be counted annually if there is to be any possibility of understanding the causes of population changes.