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Penguin Chicks are Dying in a Changing Climate
The life of a Magellanic penguin is hardly idyllic. They contend with predators like sea lions, declining food sources due to overfishing and the constant threat of oil spills in their South American habitat. But now, they are facing a threat that could spell the end for their species – climate change. The changing climate means more rainstorms and abnormal heat waves, both of which have tragic consequences for young penguin chicks. The rains stick to their underdeveloped feathers, a clinging chill that causes the penguins to sicken and die.
For the past 27 years, researchers from the University of Washington have been monitoring some 400,000 Magellanic penguins living in Argentina, and they began to notice the sad trend:
“Too big for parents to sit over protectively, but still too young to have grown waterproof feathers, downy penguin chicks exposed to drenching rain can struggle and die of hypothermia in spite of the best efforts of their concerned parents,” researchers said in a statement. “And during extreme heat, chicks without waterproofing can’t take a dip in cooling waters as adults can.”
Given that two thirds of penguin chicks can die during a normal season, any additional losses are catastrophic. Magellanic penguins aren’t classified as endangered just yet, but if more rain storms and heat waves hit after hatching season the population will see a sharp decline.
A Global Crisis
From the birds in the Arctic, to penguins on the southern tip of Argentina, to migratory birds that live right here in the United States, climate change poses a threat to avian species everywhere. It’s just a range of examples that highlights the global nature of this challenge. We should try to protect the Magellanic penguin from pollution and the problems of overfishing, but unless we take steps to confront climate change these penguin chicks will continue to suffer.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted the decline of our own carbon emissions, and what he would do to ensure that trend continues. You can take action to join in this battle against climate change.