Wildlife photographer Yves Adams has documented a groundbreaking sighting of a rare yellow king penguin in South Georgia. The bird’s unique bright yellow plumage, starkly contrasting with the standard black feathers, has left experts in awe.
During a two-month photography expedition across Antarctica and the South Atlantic, Adams and his guests landed at Salisbury Plain, home to a colony of over 120,000 king penguins.
While setting up safety equipment, Adams noticed the one-of-a-kind bird swimming towards the shore alongside other penguins with their typical black and white appearance.
Believed to be the first-ever recorded sighting of a yellow king penguin, Adams quickly captured the extraordinary moment on camera. According to the Ghent, Belgium-based photographer, “There were 120,000 birds on that beach, and this was the only yellow one there.”
The unusual yellow coloration is thought to be caused by leucism, a genetic mutation that prevents melanin production in feathers. This results in white, pale, or patchy coloration in animals.
The extent of leucism can vary from a few feathers to an entire plumage. Penguin expert P. Dee Boersma of the University of Washington in Seattle told National Geographic that this rare color pattern had been observed in a few individuals across many penguin species.
Adams’ journey with Quark Expeditions in December 2019 continued for another eight weeks, yielding thousands of photographs. The incredible images of the yellow king penguin have only recently been released as Adams has been sorting through the vast collection.
The photographer, who had dreamt of visiting South Georgia since watching a David Attenborough documentary 30 years ago, described the encounter with the yellow penguin as “an incredibly unique experience” and “the show of a lifetime.”
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