King penguin

Next weekend is Thanksgiving weekend. Instead of posting on Next Door Zoo, I’ll let you spend time with your family, watch football, play with new toys from Black Friday, or whatever you want to do next week. See you on December 5th!



Not the only penguin named after royalty, the king penguin is a rather large bird living around Antarctica. King penguins look a lot like emperor penguins and are even about the same size. There is only a slight coloring difference between the two species. Both animals have white chests, gray/white backs, black beaks with a pink stripe. Both species also have orange and yellow coloring around their neck. Although they look very similar to emperor penguins, king penguins look completely different from their own kids. As the picture below shows they look like a different species! In fact when they were first seen, the chicks were considered a different species: the woolly penguin. Male and female adult king penguins look the same.



The king penguin is the second largest penguin is the world. Only the emperor penguin is slightly larger. Adults stand up to 37 inches (95 cm) tall, which is quite tall for a bird. They can weigh up to 37.5 pounds (17 kg), although this is usually closer to 26.5 pounds (12 kg). Both of these measurements are about the same measurements for an average three-year-old child! Although there are no widely known measurements for females compared to males, females are known to be slightly smaller than males.


The diet of most penguins is pretty much the same. It consists mostly squid, krill, and small fish. Because king penguins are larger than most penguins, they can also tackle larger fish. King penguins capture their prey underwater, and usually dive down to about 160 ft (50 m) below the surface. During the winter when prey is less abundant, they can dive as deep as 1,000 feet (300 m)! During dives, they can stay underwater for up to ten minutes and can swim up to 8 miles (13 km) per hour. Although this may not sound very fast, remember this is in the water and not on land.

Habitat and Range

Unlike many other penguins, king penguins don’t actually live in Antarctica. The land at the center of the map is Antarctica and he southern part of Africa is at one-o’clock. The red and yellow areas represent the ranges of two different subspecies, and the green area is breeding range. Another way king penguins are different from the stereotypical is that the don’t live in the snow. They normally nest on bare ground or among sparse vegetation. Nests can be close to the sea or a little farther away, but they are never very far.


Status and threats

King penguins are classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. Despite their large size, even adult king penguins have natural predators. These are mainly aquatic predators such as Antarctic fur seals, leopard seals, and killer whales. On land king penguin chicks are also vulnerable to birds such as skuas and giant petrels. During the 1800s and 1900s, these birds were hunted for many items including oil, blubber, eggs, and skins. Because individuals in a colony group close together, the birds were easily caught and some whole colonies were exterminated. Luckily after the hunting of king penguins was banned, their population has grown back to its original size. Most of the previous breeding sights are now again home to large, healthy populations of king penguins.

Reproduction and young

Unlike many smaller penguins, pairs of king penguins do not always stay together. This may be because they don’t always arrive at breeding sites at the same time. If one mate is late, the first one will probably just find another mate. Males use vocal and visual displays when advertising for a mate. This includes stretching to their full height, raising their beaks, and trumpeting. After the female accepts the male, the pair will preform a small dance which includes bowing and calling.

Females only lay one egg each season, between November and April (this is summer in the Southern Hemisphere). If you have watched a documentary about emperor penguins, you probably know how they incubate their eggs. They keep the eggs on their feet and use their belly to keep it warm. One of the parents will incubate the egg for two or three weeks while the other one catches food. A cycle continues for about two months until the eggs hatch.

For most birds, when the young fledge it means they are able to fly. Not the same for penguins. For flightless birds the chicks fledge when their down is replaces by adult feathers. This happens around 10 to 16 months after the chicks hatch. Because it takes so long before the young are independent, pairs may only mate every three years. They can live up to 26 years in the wild and in captivity.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!



Photo credits:

  • King penguin – Liam Quinn
  • King penguin range map – Sébastien Bruchet
  • King penguin chick – Liam Quinn
  • Mystery animal – Bloomingdedalus
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