Antarctic Birds


Antarctica located in the southern hemisphere of our continent is the coldest part of the earth covered with 98% ice. Humans can’t live in these extreme climatic conditions, only cold adapted organisms can survive. Antarctic birds like penguins in Antarctica, albatrosses, Shearwaters and petrels etc. can adapt to the harsh climate. Vegetation in Antarctica is only tundra. The birds in this hemisphere mainly feed on small fish like lantern fish, squid, Antarctic krill and crustaceans. Algae, bacteria, fungus and Protista serve as food for the Antarctic birds.

Penguins In Antarctica

They are aquatic and flightless birds which feed on small fishes, Antarctic krill and squid. They always live in colonies. There are 17 species of penguins around the world and among them 7 species are penguins in Antarctica namely; king penguin, Adelie penguin, emperor penguin, Gentoo penguin, chinstrap penguin, macaroni penguin and rock hopper penguin. The second largest penguin is the king penguin which weighs about 11 to 16 kg of weight. To breed they go to the northern parts of the Antarctic. They have a four layer skin with oiled and water proof feathers with silvery gray back and black brownish head. King penguin ear patches are bright golden orange in colour. Their chick is brown and gray in colour. Penguins drink sea water and they expel the excess salt as concentrated brine through nostrils.

penguins in antarctica

Albatrosses

Albatrosses are the birds with one largest wing spans reaching up to 12 feet. Small fish, squid and Antarctic krill are their main food. They fly most of the time and they come down only to breed and feed. 5 species of albatross are seen in Antarctica. Wandering albatross is the largest seabird which can be seen in Antarctica. They have wings with black and white in colour and wandering albatross is whitest among the albatross. They drink salt water and their excess salt is desalinated through the salt gland which is situated above the nasal passage. They lay a single egg over a year. These species are endangered by rats and feral cats which eat their eggs and chicks.

antarctic birds

Petrels

They are tube-nosed seabird with united nostrils and medium septum. They feed on fish, zoo plankton and molluscs. They usually breed on the high altitude of Antarctic and migrate along the northern cool currents. The Snow petrel breeds in the south pole of Antarctica. They have a nasal passage attached to the naricorns and salt gland to secrete the excess salt of the sea water. During long flights, stomach oil made of wax esters and triglycerides which is stored in the proventriculus serves as energy rich food for the chicks and for adults. Snow petrel nests in colonies near the sea. They are white in color with a bluish gray foot, coal black eyes and black lower the body.

petrels

Other than these Antarctic Birds, the Antarctica has been a living and breeding place for many birds like terns, gulls sheathbills, skuas’ jaegers and cormorants etc. The extreme conditions with less vegetation also make these birds select Antarctica as a place to breed. It is because they are cold adaptable birds. But global warming and dumping of waste along the southern hemisphere has been a threat to the survival of these Antarctic birds.