Through satellite imaging, scientists have discovered 20% more Emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica. There are now 61 colonies across the continent overall.

The discovery is welcomed, but the previously undiscovered critters will act as “canaries in the coalmine” when it comes to studying the impact of global warming, experts said. 

The study used satellite mapping technology to help the study to “provide an important benchmark for monitoring the impact of environmental change on the population of this iconic bird,” researchers said. 

In the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology, the authors explained that they used images from the European Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission to locate the birds. The satellite is part of a program to observe the earth and any changes to the environment. 

Emperor penguins need sea ice to breed, and they live in remote and often inaccessible areas with temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius, which makes them difficult to study. 

Climate change is a huge threat to the species as the loss of sea ice will devastate their habitats. According to the report, published Tuesday, the new colonies “are situated at the margins of the emperors’ breeding range.”  That makes them vulnerable to global warming.