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    Population and breeding of the gentoo penguin Pygoscelis papua at Marion Island, 1994/95 to 2002/03

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    R.J.M. Crawford, J. Cooper, M. du Toit, M.D. Greyling, B. Hanise, C.L. Holness, D.G. Keith, J.L. Nel, S.L. Petersen, K. Spencer, D. Tshingana and A.C. Wolfaardt (South Africa)
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    The numbers of gentoo penguins Pygoscelis papua breeding at subantarctic Marion Island fell by 40%, from 1994/95 to 2002/03 from 1 352 pairs to 806 pairs. Apart from a slight increase in 1998/99, there was a steady decrease in numbers breeding between 1995/96 and 2000/01, when the population stabilized. There is indication that in some years not all breeders nested and that some birds relocated to another colony after disturbance. From first clutches, pairs on average fledged between 0.01 chicks in 1997/98 and 0.58 chicks in 2002/03 (mean 0.38 ± 0.21). In 1994/95, replacement clutches increased the overall production of fledged chicks by 11%. Based on demographic parameters measured at other localities, the production of chicks at Marion Island was inadequate to maintain the population during the period 1995/96–2000/01. Consistency in trends in breeding success at five colonies suggests that factors operating at a mesoscale, rather than those specific to particular colonies, often influenced breeding success. Laying was later than normal in 1997/98, when there was almost total breeding failure with large losses of eggs and small chicks to returning Subantarctic skuas Catharacta antarctica. Future research on this Near Threatened species at Marion Island must take full account of its susceptibility to human disturbance.