Wildlife Disease: During my second year (2007-08), I discovered a new feather-loss disorder of unknown cause or origin not previously seen in Dr. Boersma’s 25 years at Punta Tombo where chicks fail to grow their second layer of down resulting in a ‘plucked chicken’ appearance. We hope to learn the cause and cost of this disorder. Additionally, we had the largest avian pox outbreak since the project started in 1983. We are interested in learning why pox is prevalent in some years and not others, the transmission mechanism and the cost to individuals. I would also like to investigate the cost to reproduction (egg size, shell thickness, chick growth rates, and reproductive success) by nematodes that infest most penguin stomachs.
Molting: Prior to the 2007-08 breeding season molting in Magellanic penguins had yet to be studied so volunteer Jeffrey Smith and I stayed an extra month and a half at Punta Tombo to document the event. We are in the process of looking at the data.
Penguin Aggression: Adult penguins express a variety of aggressive behaviors at their nests. We want to know if these behaviors translate into reproductive success. We are currently analyzing data collected during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
Chick Fledging: Chicks fledge during a month and half period (mid-January to late-February). I am interested in how a chick ‘decides’ when to fledge, by what means the chick finds its way to the water, and how several years later many chicks return within 20 meters of their natal nest.