Antarctica bombshell: Rare 'albino penguin' spotted as scientists send dire warning

Penguins are the most common birds on the icy continent and live in colonies with populations as large as some cities. Of the 17 species recorded over the years in the region, only the emperor and Adelie remain in the frozen desert around the year. The chinstrap, gentoo and macaroni all breed on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, before heading to the cooler waters of the Southern Ocean.

But things are changing quickly.

Temperatures on the continent have risen by almost 3C over the past 50 years and about 87 percent of the glaciers along its west coast have “retreated” in that time.

Award-winning filmmaker and author Jon Bowermaster revealed some of the first-hand effects of that change during Amazon Prime’s ’Terra Antarctica’ documentary.

He said: “We spot a trio of tents on Petermann Island and pull ashore to investigate.

“It turns out it is home to penguin researchers based here each summer.”

Environmental group Oceanides has been monitoring wildlife for two decades in the region.

Researcher Melissa Rider said: “The gentoo penguins are increasing, and the Adelie penguins are decreasing.

“Even from last year to this year, we’ve lost 20 percent of our Adelie penguins in one year.

“The Adelies are cold-loving birds, they like a lot of sea ice, and we’re not getting those types of conditions in this part of the Antarctica Peninsula any longer.

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“Ever since leaving King George, she had been lobbying for taking a day to search for it.”

After trekking through the ice for several hours, the pair spotted the penguin just five metres away.

Ms Stewart said in 2016: “There it is. It’s so beautiful.

“You can still see the little white patch on its head.

“I cannot believe it’s right there. I couldn’t be more excited.”

In the ocean, penguins’ black backs camouflage the birds from both predator and prey swimming above.

Experts suspect the change in colour would affect the bird’s survival, though there are no studies to support the theory.

Although penguins have wings and feathers, they cannot fly.

Instead, they have evolved into the most efficient swimmers and divers of all birds.

Some species spend 75 percent of their time at sea – the most of any birds.