An emperor penguin stands on ice.

Emperor penguins are Antarctica’s most iconic bird. Are they on the verge of extinction?

Think of Antarctica and you probably conjure images of the emperor penguin.

The iconic bird, known for gold markings on the sides of its neck, is the darling of polar south nature videos and is the species represented by most of the penguin characters in the animated film series “Happy Feet.”

But last year, the emperor penguin’s breeding season was an almost total failure in a region off the west coast of Antarctica, as reported in the Aug. 24 issue of Nature’s “Communications Earth & Environment.”

The report says satellite imagery suggests that no chicks in four out of five known colonies in the Bellinghausen Sea appear to have survived in 2022 due to the loss of sea ice before they had time to develop their waterproof feathers.

The loss “is tied to the severe lack of winter sea ice this year,” says H. William Detrich, professor emeritus at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center and a veteran Antarctic researcher.

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Photo by Sergio Pitamitz / VWPics via AP Images

Marine and Environmental Sciences
Marine Science Center