Large gatherings of Southern Giant Petrels including many "white morphs" on the ice floes

After sailing south from Macquarie Island for four days, we arrived off Cape Adare early in the morning. The sea was calm and the sun was shining. The ship was surrounded by ice bergs glistening in the bright sunshine. The peaks of Antarctica were visible ahead of us. Adelie Penguins were dotted around on the ice floes as was the occasional Crabeater Seal. Assorted sea birds flew around the ship. It was a magical scene. We took to the zodiacs for a beautiful, late morning cruise in the Ross Sea with Cape Adare providing a stunning backdrop. There was a gentle swell causing the ice floes to move slowly up and down.

We were most surprised to find large gatherings of Southern Giant Petrels on the ice floes. One of these numbered more than 100 of these large birds. Normally these birds are solitary or occasionally gather in small numbers. At first we thought this gathering must have resulted from the presence of a carcass on which the birds were feeding. However, this was not the case. We speculated that the very calm conditions without wind had basically grounded these birds since they use the wind to gain lift. Adult (pale heads) and juvenile birds (darker) were present and, of most interest, was the presence of significant numbers of the rarer “white morph”.

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Shoot Location

Macquarie Island, Australian Sub Antarctic, 2018 Adelie Penguins on ice floes