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King Penguin
Similar Birds:
 Emperor Penguin

King Penguin
Photographer: Ben Tubby

King Penguins at South Georgia Island
King Penguins at South Georgia Island

Colony of King Penguins
Colony of King Penguins

King Penguin Range Map (Sub-Antarctic Islands)
King Penguin Range Map (Sub-Antarctic Islands)

King Penguins
Latin Name Aptenodytes patagonicus
Conservation Status Least Concern
Location Sub Antarctic Islands & Antarctica
Colour Black & White
Height Approx 90 cm (35 inches)
Weight 11 - 16 Kgs (24 - 35 lbs)
Life Expectancy 30 Yrs (in captivity)

Main Characteristics

King Penguins are the second largest species of penguin, the emperor penguin being the largest. They are around 90 cms (35 inches) in height and they weigh between 11 and 16 kgs (24 - 35 lbs).

They are coloured grey/black on their backs and white on their front. They have yellow/orange markings on each side of their head and the lower half of their beak.

They have 4 layers of feathers, the outer layer is oiled and waterproof while the inner 3 layers are down that provide effective insulation against the extreme weather conditions. Chicks have no outer layer of feathers therefore they cannot fish until they gain their full adult plumage.

Each year, during September, King Penguins come ashore to breed and moult. The moulting lasts for 3 - 4 weeks and unlike other seabirds, they moult their feathers all at once. During the moulting period their plumage is not waterproof nor are they insulated so they cannot go out to sea to feed. They can loose up to 250 g (8.8 oz) per day in body weight during this period.

Like most penguins, King Penguins are able to drink salt water due to their supraorbital gland which filters excess salt from their bloodstream by way of a capillary just above the penguins eyes. The excess salt is then expelled through the penguin's nose in a salty brine.


King Penguins are found icy, snowy and rocky areas of Sub-Antarctic islands and the Falklands. They live in large colonies that can consist of thousands of birds.


King Penguins feed upon small fish, mainly lantern fish. Also they sometimes feed on krill and other crustaceans.

They repeatedly dive down to depths of over 100 m (350 ft) on foraging trips but they can dive more than 200 m (700 ft) deep.


During November and December King Penguins begin to breed and the female will lay 1 egg. They do not make a nest, instead the egg is held on their feet, covered by a fold of fat, during the incubation period. The egg is incubated by both parents and after a period of approximately 55 days the chick will hatch. When the chicks are old enough they will form a creche where a few adult penguins watch over them while their parents go out to sea to feed.

By April the chick is almost fully grown but they loose weight during the winter months, gaining it again during spring in September. They fledge during late spring or early summer and they reach sexual maturity at 4 years old.


The main predators of King Penguins are leopard seals and killer whales. Chicks and eggs are prey to shore birds such as sheathbills, skuas and giant petrels.


There are two subspecies of King Penguin:

Aptenodytes patagonicus patagonicus
Aptenodytes patagonicus halli

Interesting Facts

The total population of King Penguins is estimated to be 2.23 million pairs.

King Penguins belong to the genus Aptenodytes, which also includes:
Emperor Penguin

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