Orientation in a crowded environment: can King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) chicks find their creches after a displacement?

A.P. Nesterova, Jerome Mardon, F. Bonadonna

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6 Citations (Scopus)


For seabird species, the presence of conspecifics in a crowded breeding colony can obstruct locally available orientation cues. Thus, navigation to specific locations can present a challenging problem. We investigated short-range orientation in King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) chicks that live in a large and densely populated colony. The two main objectives were to determine whether chicks displaced to a novel location away from the colony (i) can orient towards the colony and return to their crèche and (ii) rely on visual or non-visual cues for orientation. To address these questions, a circular arena was constructed 100 m away from the colony. Chicks were released in the arena during the day and at night. After the orientation experiment in the arena, chicks were allowed to return to their home crèche, if they could. Our results showed that, during day trials, chicks preferred the half of the arena closer to the colony, but not at night. However, at night, birds spent more time on `the colony half' of the arena if the wind blew from the colony direction. When animals were allowed to leave the arena, 98% of chicks homed during the day but only 62% of chicks homed at night. Chicks that homed at night also took longer to find their crèche. The experiments suggest that King Penguin chicks can find their crèche from a novel location. Visual cues are important for homing but, when visual cues are not present, animals are able to make use of other information carried by the wind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-216
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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