A wildlife photographer recently shared an extraordinary photograph that he believes showcases a “never before seen” yellow penguin, a truly unique and rare sighting.
In December 2019, Yves Adams, a landscape and wildlife photographer from Belgium, was leading a two-month photo expedition in the South Atlantic. During the journey, the group made a stop at an island in South Georgia with the intention of photographing a massive colony of more than 120,000 king penguins.
While in the process of unloading safety equipment and food on Salisbury Plain, Adams had a remarkable encounter. He spotted a penguin with vivid yellow plumage—a sight he had never witnessed before.
“I had never seen or even heard of a yellow penguin before,” the photographer shares with Kennedy News. “Among the 120,000 birds on that beach, this was the only yellow one present.”
Fortunately, the tropical-looking yellow penguin landed on the beach near the group of photographers, granting them an ideal and unobstructed view. This stroke of luck allowed them to observe the unique penguin without the presence of a multitude of other penguins and seals that inhabited the area.
“We were incredibly fortunate that the bird chose to land right near our location,” the photographer expresses. “This meant that our view was not obstructed by the multitude of large animals typically present. Normally, moving around on this beach is almost impossible due to the sheer number of animals.”
“It was truly a stroke of luck that the penguin landed so close to us. Had it been just 50 meters away, we wouldn’t have been able to witness this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle,” the photographer remarks gratefully.
The penguin’s peculiar coloring is attributed to a condition known as leucism, which causes a reduction or absence of pigmentation in the bird’s feathers.
Adams explains, “This penguin is a leucistic variant. Its cells no longer produce melanin, resulting in the transformation of its black feathers into this distinctive yellow and creamy color.”
Scientists have made an intriguing discovery regarding the yellow pigment present in penguin feathers. They have determined that this particular pigment is chemically unique and distinct from all other known color-contributing molecules found in feathers.
According to researcher Daniel Thomas, penguins use the yellow pigment to attract potential partners, and it is believed that penguins produce this yellow pigment within their bodies. This pigment is different from the five known types of pigments that color feathers, representing a new sixth type. It is not similar to any yellow pigments found in the penguin’s food.
It is uncertain whether the unique yellow plumage of the fully-yellow penguin makes it exceptionally attractive or unappealing to potential female mates. The impact of its distinct appearance on female penguins’ perception is unclear.
During the remaining 8 weeks of the expedition following the remarkable sighting, Yves diligently captured thousands of photos. Recently, while sorting through his extensive collection, he came across and edited these photos, rediscovering the memories captured during the expedition.