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The King penguin is the second largest penguin. It is sometimes confused with the larger Emperor penguin. The King penguin lives on islands far to the north of the Antarctic continent where the Emperor penguin lives. The King penguin has orange ear patches that are a closed tear-drop shape; while the Emperor penguin has a yellow open ear patch shape. Adults are 90 cm tall and weigh about 15-16 kg. They are found on many sub-Antarctic islands including Crozet, Prince Edward , Kerguelen, South Georgia and Mazquarie Islands. Total population is estimated to be 1 million breeding pairs.

King Penguins


Royal Penguin

The male king penguin incubates the egg much as male Emperor penguins, but the King penguins do this during the warmer summer season, when food is more available. Once the egg is laid, the male will care for it. The female goes to the open sea and will return in about 21 days to take her turn keeping the egg warm. The male will only go about 1 month without food. The chick hatches in about 54 days. The chick is cared for by both parents for 30 to 40 days. At this time it joins a crèche for warmth and protection from predators.



The parents return to sea to feed. They take turns bringing food to the chick every other day. The chicks grow quickly during the warm summer weather. When autumn and winter comes the parents go back to sea to feed. The chicks have grown a warm brown fussy down of feathers. They have also grown a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm during the winter months ahead. The chicks huddle in their crèches during the winter months while the parents occasionally come onshore to feed them.

King Penguins


In the spring the parents come back and start feeding the chick again. At this time, the chicks starts to grow its adult feathers and is ready to go off on its own. Raising a King penguin chick usually takes 10 to 13 months. This allows the adults to raise only 1 chick every other year. King penguins mainly eat fish with small amounts of squid and crustaceans. Early explorers of the region thought the brown chicks were another species of penguins. They called them the "woolly penguin".

King Penguin
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Penguin Photos used with permission from:
Pete and Barb's Penguin Pages


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