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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus

The king penguin is the largest penguin found on shores outside Antarctica. Like its close relative the emperor penguin, it has a blue-black body with a white chest and conspicuous, yellow-orange markings on its head.

Male and female king penguins look identical, and they share the task of incubating the single egg. Instead of building a nest, they cradle the egg on their broad webbed feet, where it is kept warm by a flap of skin. The bodies of king penguins are protected from the cold by short, densely-packed feathers and a thick layer of blubber.

King penguins feed on fish and squid, diving to depths of over 650 ft (200 m) to hunt their prey. At one time, these birds were exploited commercially for their blubber, oil, and feathers, but today they are fully protected.

King Penguins Breeding Out of Step

King penguins have a breeding cycle found in no other sea bird. The cycle begins in November—the start of the southern summer—when the female king penguin lays her first egg. The chick takes 55 days to hatch, then stays with its parents for 11 months. Once the chick is independent, the female must complete her molt before laying again, this time in late fall. As a result, the king penguin’s breeding cycle takes 18 months and moves in and out of phase with the calendar year.

King Penguinzoom image
  • Order Sphenisciformes
  • Height 33–37 in (85–95 cm)
  • Weight 26–31 lb (12–14 kg)
  • Habitat Rocky coasts, open ocean
  • Distribution Southern Ocean, subantarctic islands including Falkland Islands
King Penguin habitat mapzoom image