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Species Guide
A photo of a King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
King Penguin

King Penguin

Aptenodytes patagonicus

The King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is a majestic bird, the second largest penguin species, with a stature that commands attention. Standing between 70 to 100 cm tall and weighing from 9.3 to 18 kg, these birds are a sight to behold. Their plumage is a striking combination of deep grays and vivid oranges, and they possess a regal bearing that is unmistakable.

Identification Tips

Upon observing the King Penguin, one is struck by its vibrant orange cheek patch, which is set against the darker feathers of its head. The upper chest is adorned with a rich orange hue, and the bird's sleek body is complemented by a long, straight bill and large flippers. Juveniles can be identified by their fluffy brown down and lack of the adult's colorful markings.


King Penguins are found on the Subantarctic islands, where they breed on the northern fringes of Antarctica, South Georgia, and other temperate islands in the region. They are also residents of Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean.


These penguins have a wide distribution across subantarctic islands, with significant populations on the Crozet Islands, Prince Edward Islands, Kerguelen Islands, and the South Georgia archipelago. Their non-breeding range extends to the Antarctic peninsula and as far as South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.


King Penguins are proficient divers, often plunging to depths of over 100 meters in search of food. They exhibit a variety of diving patterns, including flat-bottomed and V-shaped dives. On land, they alternate between a wobbling walk and tobogganing on their bellies, propelled by their flippers.

Song & Calls

The calls of the King Penguin are distinct, with males and females having different vocalizations that can be used for identification.


The breeding cycle of the King Penguin is notably prolonged, taking about 14-16 months from laying to fledging. They are serially monogamous, with low fidelity between years. Breeding begins with a prenuptial moult and the laying of a single, pear-shaped egg. Both parents share incubation duties, and the chick is born semi-altricial, relying on its parents for warmth and sustenance.

Similar Species

The Emperor Penguin is the closest relative to the King Penguin, but can be distinguished by its yellow and white cheek patch, pinker mandible markings, and the greyish color of its chick.

Diet and Feeding

King Penguins primarily feed on small fish, squid, and krill, with fish making up the bulk of their diet. Lanternfish are a particular favorite, and the birds are known to dive to great depths in pursuit of their prey.

Conservation status

The King Penguin is currently classified as Least Concern, with a population that is large and increasing. However, they face threats from climate change and commercial fishing, which may impact their food sources and breeding grounds. Conservation efforts are in place to protect their habitats and manage human interactions.

In the voice of David Attenborough, we have explored the King Penguin, a bird whose life is as rich and deep as the oceans it swims in. With careful observation and continued conservation efforts, we may ensure that these splendid creatures endure for generations to come.

King Penguin Sounds

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