Great Penguins
(Aptenodytes)

"Flightless Divers"

King Penguin(Aptenodytes patagonica)

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King Photo Gallery

King penguins live on sub-Antarctic islands dotted around the continent from about 46° to 55° South. They are the second largest of all penguins averaging 37 to 38 inches in length and their weight varies from 24 pounds to 38 pounds. Note that while their closet relative, the emperor penguin, is only 9 inches taller than the king penguin it weighs over twice as much. This is because of the harsh conditions of Antarctica versus the milder climate of the king penguin located in the Subantarctic Islands. They have a black head, chin and throat with vivid orange, tear-shaped ear patch. The orange coloration extends to the upper chest. They have 4 layers of feathers with the outer layer being oiled and waterproof. There are probably two subspecies. In 1911 ornithologist Gregory Mathews suggested that there were two: Aptenodynes patagonicus breeding on South Georgia and Falkland Islands and Aptenodynes hali  breeding on the Kerguelen, Crozet, Prince Edward, Heard and Macquarie Islands. Their total population is about 2.23 million pairs and their population, unlike most penguin species, is increasing. The main breeding areas are: Crozet Island - 455,000 pairs, Prince Edward Island - 228,000 pairs, Macquarie Island -70,000 pairs, and Kerguelen Island - 240,000 to 280,000 pairs. On South Georgia there are 120,000 breeding pairs at Salisbury Plain, and ~ 200,000 birds at St. Andrews Bay. In South Georgia when the summer temperature may reach 60 degrees, the king penguins and their chicks are at risk for heat stroke. To avoid this, the adults swim in the water and the chicks may go into muddy pools of water found on land. Their diet is mainly (80% to 100%) small fish, mainly lanternfish, and squid. They feed less on krill and crustaceans than other Southern Ocean predators. Their land predators are skuas who take chicks and eggs, while the sea predators for adult are the leopard seals and occasionally Orcas. Only one egg is laid and the hatch success rate is 64% to 84% depending on the site. They have the longest breeding cycle of any penguin taking 14 to 16 months to fledge a single chick. As the male Emperor penguin does, the male King cares for the egg initially fasting for about one month. The male and female then take turns caring for the egg until the end of the incubation period which is about 55 days. Winter starvation may claim the lives of 50% of king chicks. The adults raise one chick every other year. The dark brown downy chicks were felt by early explorers to be a separate species called "Woolly penguins". The King penguin generally dive from to 1000 feet and to a maximum depth of 1122 feet lasting up to 9 minutes. Most dives last less than 4 to 6 minutes. They swim speed is from 4.7 mph to 6 mph. Like the emperor penguin they walk slowly and do not hop. Unlike other penguins they rarely porpoise.


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King Photo Gallery 1

King Photo Gallery 2

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