We investigated the diet and aspects of foraging effort among Adélie Penguins Pygoscelis adeliae breeding at three colonies on Ross Island, in the southwestern Ross Sea -- Capes Royds, Bird and Crozier -- during the chick provisioning period of three austral summers, 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97. During the study period, pack-ice cover differed in waters offshore of these colonies, by colony, seasons and year. Diet differed among colonies only slightly. The fish Pleuragramma antarcticum was the most important prey, especially during years or periods within years when little pack ice was present. With respect to krill, which composed the remainder of diet, juvenile Euphausia crystallorophias were consumed predominantly in a year of heavy pack-ice cover; more adult krill were consumed in two years when pack ice was sparse. Foraging trip duration differed by colony, season and year and was related directly to distance from the colony to the nearest pack ice. The amount of food brought to chicks increased as trip duration increased, to a point (2 d), but then decreased as duration increased further (up to 4 d). On the basis of data on mass of parents and of meal sizes to chicks, it appeared that on longest trips more of the food gathered by parents was used for self maintenance; on longest trips, parents lost body mass. Successful foraging during chick rearing, the period when adult foraging is most intense, appears to depend on the proximity of pack ice to nesting colonies for this penguin species.