We know that penguins are highly socialable birds that live in large groups together in the Southern hemipshere. Especially on Antarctica.
But the southern continent is a wild, open, still vastly unexplored land. It's the kind of place where even a massive group of Adélie penguins — say, around 1.5 million of them — could hide from humanity. Which up until recently is exactly what has happened.
Researchers have confirmed an enormous supercolony of Adélie penguins on the remote Danger Islands, near Antarctica. Not only is this one of the larger groups of Adélies out there, it also shows a colony that has stayed very strong despite climate change. And the way that this frigid flock of Antarctic adorableness was finally found?
You found satellite images of what?
Yes, you read that correctly. Back in 2014, satellite images showing the birds' droppings tipped scientists off to the existence of the penguins. And it kind of makes sense. Many researchers use poop to track down harder to find species. (After all, while animals can run and hide when humans approach, their poop cannot.)
But it's pretty rare that droppings are what reveals an animal population that is otherwise so large. Just look at them!
Fly away to the danger zone
Once scientists had reason to believe that Adélie penguins might be there, they had to make the trip to the Danger Islands to count the population by hand. What they've found has more than met their expectations.
It is the largest colony on the Antarctic Peninsula (a large "horn" that juts out of Western Antarctica). This is great news since many penguins that live in this part of the world are in trouble. And the project now? To use the knowledge of the birds' existence to protect them, so that their population doesn't decline, too.