GNP NEWS: Annual Galapagos Penguin and Cormorant Census
The populations of the two bird species remain stable.
A Galapagos Penguin gets microchipped by GNP guards and staff from the Charles Darwin Foundation during the annual Penguin and Cormorant census.
Over the course of 8 days, the Galapagos National Park Service conducted a partial census of penguins and cormorants at four sites on the islands of Isabela and Fernandina, in order to learn about the population status of these species. A partial census is carried out every year, while a complete census is conducted every five years or following strong El Niño years.
A full census is carried out in 10 different areas within the archipelago, but the partial census is conducted in 4 areas considered to have the greatest abundance of individuals based on findings from the previous 10 years. This year, birds were observed along the coasts of Fernandina Island between Punta Espinoza to Cape Douglas, and between Punta Mangrove to Punta Espinoza. On Isabela Island, observations were made from Cape Berkeley to Punta Albermarle and from Punta Essex to Punta Moreno.
To count penguins and cormorants, guards approach the shore in small boats. Using binoculars, they register individuals of each species present in the area. When possible, they go ashore to make observations on land.
Oceanographic and atmospheric data (sea and air temperature, water transparency and cloud cover) are recorded at fixed times at each site where penguins and cormerants are found.
A total of 721 penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus) and 922 flightless cormorants (Nannopterum harrisi) were counted, demonstrating that the size of the populations of these species in the islands remains similar to levels measured in recent years.
During the census, park and station staff tagged 63 penguins and 39 cormorants with microchips, which will make its possible to identify these individuals in future years.
This census has been carried out since 1961. Penguins and flightless cormorants are endemic to Galapagos; they live mainly around the islands of Isabela and Fernandina.
The penguin, whose population size is small and whose distribution is very limited in the islands, are vulnerable because they require temperatures below 24 degrees Celsius in order to breed. Flightless cormorants have a high level of egg infertility, which also makes them a highly-vulnerable species.
Support from Galapagos Conservancy funded the CDF staff’s participation in this census.