"How lucky could I be!" stated Belgian landscape and wildlife photographer Yves Adams about being able to spot the rare leucistic king penguin.
A wildlife photographer has managed to capture a rare picture of a never-seen-before yellow penguin. Belgian landscape and wildlife photographer Yves Adams has shared the images of the unique penguin that has captured the awe of the internet. Penguins are known for their unique tuxedo-like fur pattern that looks like they're wearing a black coat and white shirt. The most yellow a penguin has is in the form of broad patches on each side of the head, a streak on the beak or brow, and feather crests. But the penguin Adams managed to capture has a white body with a yellow head, pink beak, and feet.
Sharing the images on Instagram Adams wrote: Winning nature’s lottery with seeing the most beautiful King penguin and being able to take pictures! While unpacking our rubber boats merely after landing on a remote beach on the island of South-Georgia, this leucistic King penguin walked up straight to our direction in the middle of chaos full of Sea elephants and Antarctic fur seals, and thousands of other King penguins. How lucky could I be! Adams was leading a two-month photo exhibition in the South Atlantic in December 2019 when he and his team chanced upon the rare penguin.
“I’d never seen or heard of a yellow penguin before,” Adams stated according to Peta Pixel. “There were 120,000 birds on that beach and this was the only yellow one there.” As luck would have it, the penguin landed right by the beach where the group was. They got an unobstructed view of the thousands of penguins as well as the seals. “We were so lucky the bird landed right where we were,” the photographer said. “Our view wasn’t blocked by a sea of massive animals. Normally it’s almost impossible to move on this beach because of them all. It was heaven that he landed by us. If it had been 50 meters away we wouldn’t have been able to get this show of a lifetime.”
Check out this leucistic king penguin I saw in Salisbury Plain South Georgia last December. Not an albino, there is still some pigment. Its back was nearly the exact same colour as uncooked chicken. What do you think? Cute or creepy? 🐧 #penguin pic.twitter.com/WtsIlvfLsU— Samantha McBeth, birds, botany... boreal biomes (@lady_mcbeth_) July 14, 2020
The penguin has a condition called leucism which is "a mutation that prevents any melanin at all from being produced in feathers," according to National Geographic. This is different from albinism where an animal produces no melanin at all throughout its entire body. "Many species of penguins have a few rare individuals with this color pattern," penguin expert P. Dee Boersma of the University of Washington in Seattle stated. And the one captured by Adams is one of these rare ones. The different coloring could prove difficult for the penguin's survival because the black fur helps in camouflage. But Boersma does not think it will impact the bird's survival all that much.
A penguin has yellow as a way to attract mates. Daniel Thomas, a fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and lead author of the research paper conducted to specifically study the yellow pigment in the feathers of penguins stated the yellow, red, and orange plumage in birds are easily linked to diet. The research was carried out by using Raman spectroscopy. Thomas explained, "At its very essence Raman spectroscopy is a study of the way light and matter interact, and very specific interactions tell us about the chemistry of a sample.” He added, “As far as we are aware, the molecule is unlike any of the yellow pigments found in a penguin’s diet.” The researchers have concluded that the pigment was likely made by penguins for more than 13 million years.