Cape Royds Population Counts

We really do need your help!

Keeping track of penguin populations at Cape Royds, or at other colonies, is a large part of our data collection task. Adelie Penguins spend much of their time (March through Oct) on ice floes in the open ocean. There is no way for researchers to make population counts during that time. In November these penguins come to shore in breeding colonies to create their nest, lay their eggs and raise their chicks. It is during this time that penguin scientists make counts to monitor populations from one year to another. They want to know if the population is increasing or decreasing. Taking accurate counts even during this time is difficult. With practice, researchers become good at scanning a group and making an estimate, but even then there is a margin of error, as the penguins move around quickly and all look alike.

One way to make an accurate count is to take a picture, and in fact this is what we do. Below is an example of a group of Adelie Penguins in a breeding colony. Can you tell how many penguins are there? Black and white ones are adults, gray ones are juveniles, but notice the many black, white and gray rocks which sometimes look like penguins.

Here are two ways to count the penguins in the above picture, but maybe you can think of some others. Download the picture from the "Count the Penguins" webpage onto your desktop.   

In Windows: Open the "paint" program; select a color, then the brush tool, then the circle. Use the zoom tool to make the picture larger so you can see the penguins more clearly. Mark each penguin with a dot as you count it. Here is an example of what that would look like.

photo PH011808

If you do not have a zoom tool on your computer picture program, or are not able to mark the photos digitally, print out the picture and use a pen to mark the birds as you count them. You may need to use a magnifying glass to help you. Or prick each penguin with a needle, then turn it over against a window and count the holes.

Once a week we will be taking a picture of the breeding colony from the same location. As the season progresses we want to see how the population changes. Your numbers are very important to us and will be used in our data collection. We will also be taking counts, but your numbers help us confirm what we think we see.

Alternatively, use the images that become available from the PenguinCam. Count the penguins, as we will be doing this, too. It would be great to have some counts independent of ours.

How you send your data to us:
Send us an email  ( with
 1) the picture name ( ex:PH011808); or date, if you view the PenguinCam  
2) number of adults and number of juveniles,
3) your name, city and state.