Georgia post issued a set of stamps showing Penguins of South Georgia. The penguins featured are King Penguin, Macaroni Penguin, Chinstrap Penguin and Gentoo Penguin.
The island of South Georgia is located in a unique position; right in the path of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. This current is a continuous cold, oceanic flow, moving from west to east, around the Antarctic continent, driven by strong westerly winds. Acting like a food conveyor belt, the current delivers a constant supply of cold, nutrient rich water, laden with Antarctic krill to the waters surrounding the island. As a result South Georgia is teeming with marine life, including a total breeding population of over 6 million penguins!
Penguins are exceedingly charismatic, flightless birds, and are wide ranging in the cooler climes of the southern hemisphere. The greatest concentrations of penguins are to be found in the Antarctic and Subantarctic, and almost every subantarctic island is a breeding site for at least one penguin species. Extremely well adapted to their pelagic lives, penguins are excellent divers and fast, agile swimmers, on account of their streamlined bodies and powerful wings or flippers for propulsion. They are truly formidable predators.
King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
The second largest of all penguins, the king penguin is a striking bird; with bright orange flashes around its head and beak, it truly deserves its regal name. King penguins are excellent divers reaching depths of up to 300m during their week-long foraging trips, hunting for fish and occasionally squid.
King penguins are an abundant species, with an estimated population of two million breeding pairs, thought to be increasing. South Georgia is an important breeding location for the king penguin, being home to nearly 25% of the world population.
Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
Due to their distinctive yellow tufts, these penguins were named after the peculiar ‘Macaroni coiffure’ hairstyles of 18th century Dandies. Feeding predominantly on Antarctic krill, the macaronis spend their winters at sea, only returning to land in the spring to breed and later moult.
With an estimated 18 million individuals, .the macaroni is the most abundant of all the penguins, although the population is thought to be in decline.
Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica)
Named after the characteristic black ‘strap’ that runs under their beaks, the chinstrap penguins are unmistakeable. Unlike the other penguins, chinstraps often forage at night while their crustacean prey is closer to the surface and so easier to reach.
This species generally occupies the more southerly subantarctic islands; with the majority of the population, around 5 million pairs, breeding on the South Sandwich Islands.
Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)
Gentoo penguins are the third largest penguin species, and also boast the largest tails of all! They are generalist predators, feeding on a mixture of crustaceans and fish. Gentoos are very dependent on land, returning to the beach each night. As a result they must forage coastally, rarely venturing more than 12 miles offshore, making them very vulnerable to local variations in food availability.
The gentoo is one of the least abundant Antarctic penguins, with only 300,000 pairs worldwide.
Title: South Georgia Penguins
Date of Issue: 25 October 2010
Country: South Georgia