STUDY finds major emperor penguin breeding ground barren since 2016.

For the past three years, virtually nothing has hatched in America's second biggest breeding ground for emperor penguins and the start of this year is looking just as bleak a new study found.

Usually, 15,000 to 24,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguins flock yearly to a breeding site at Haily Bay considered a safe place that should stay cold this century despite global warming.

But almost none have been there since 2016, according to a study in Antarctic Science.

The breeding pair population has increased significantly at a nearby breeding ground, but the study's author said it is nowhere near the amount missing at Hailey Bay.

''We never seen a breeding failure on a scale like this in 60 years,'' said Phil Trathan, head of the conservation biology at the British Antarctic Survey.

''It's unusual to have a complete breeding failure in such a big colony.''

Normally about 8% of the world's emperor penguin population breeds at Hailey Bay, Trathan said.

Black-and-white with yellow ears`and breasts, emperor penguins are the largest penguin species, weighing up to 88 pounds [40 kilograms] and living about 20 years.

Pairs breed in the harshest winter conditions with the male incubating their egg.

Scientists blame the sharp decline on climate and weather conditions that break apart the ''fast ice'' -sea ice that's connected to the land - where the emperor penguins stay to breed.

They incubate their eggs and tend to their chicks - one per pair on the ice. After breeding and tending to the chicks - the penguins move to the open sea.

In 2016 and 2017 there was no breeding in Hailey Bay, and last year there was just a bit, the study found.

The nearby Dawson-Lambton breeding area, which had been home to a couple thousand pairs increased to 11, 117 pairs in 2017 and 14, 612 pairs in 2018, the study said.

While that's encouraging, it doesn't makeup for all that was lost at Hailey Bay, Trathan said.''Not everybody has gone to Dawson Lambton yet,'' he said. [Agencies]


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