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    Population of macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus at Marion Island, 1994/95 to 2002/03, with information on breeding and diet

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    R.J.M. Crawford, J. Cooper and B.M. Dyer (South Africa)
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    There is indication that numbers of macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus at subantarctic Marion Island have decreased since the early 1980s. Estimates of the population at the island fell from about 405 000 pairs in 1983/84 and 434 000 pairs in 1994/95 to about 356 000 pairs in 2002/03. Two large colonies, at Bullard Beach and Kildalkey Bay, account for about 85% of the overall population. At both these colonies the area occupied by breeders showed no trend between 1983/84 and 2002/03, but the mean density of nests decreased. However, error on estimates of abundance at these colonies precludes demonstration of a significant decrease in the overall population. Numbers of occupied nests at other colonies decreased from 79 000 in 1994/95 to 31 000 in 2002/03. At three small colonies there was a significant decrease of 88% between 1979/80 and 2002/03, most of the decrease occurring after 1983/84. At Marion Island, macaroni penguins usually breed for the first time when aged about three years. From 1994/95–2002/03, pairs fledged on average 0.46 chicks per year, an amount thought insufficient to maintain the population. However, during this period there was a significant increase in reproductive success with time. In the same period, the masses of males and females on arrival at breeding colonies were significantly correlated. Both showed a marked decrease in 1998/99, after the El Niño of 1997/98. In most seasons from 1994/95–2001/02 crustaceans dominated the food, but the mass of chicks at fledging was significantly related to the contribution of fish to the diet.