King Penguin

Did you know?

The plumage of a penguin forms a complete, water-resistant sheath necessary for survival in cold seas. Every year, following breeding, the old plumage must be completely replaced.

Adults have a loud, polysyllabic trumpeting call when displaying, and a soft 'cooing' when locating other King Penguins on land or mostly at sea. The call of King Penguin chicks is a modulated whistle.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Average weight: 
1 300g
Breeding season: 
Year round
Clutch Size: 
57 days
Nestling Period: 
39 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

The King Penguin is the second largest of the penguins, and is a tall, stately bird with prominent orange and black head-markings. The eye is fawn to dark grey-brown, the bill is long, slender and black, and this species is recognised by an orange to yellow ear patch shaped like an inverted teardrop, a yellow tinted upper breast and an orange streak along the lower bill. Females are slightly smaller than the males, and juveniles are slightly duller in appearance.

Similar species: 

The King Penguin is smaller, much lighter and more brightly coloured than the Emperor Penguin, Aptenodytes forsteri.

Where does it live?

The King Penguin has been recorded in Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. This species is distributed through the pelagic (open ocean) range of the sub-Antarctic and low Antarctic Zones of the South Atlantic Ocean, South Indian Ocean and the Australasian sector of the Southern Ocean.


Habitat for the King Penguin is the marine, pelagic range north of the Antarctic pack-ice.

Seasonal movements: 

Not much is known about the movements of the King Penguin, however it is thought to be dispersive and partly migratory.

What does it do?

The King Penguin feeds underwater by pursuit-diving, on a diet of small myctophid fish and cephalopods such as squid. This species 'porpoises' smoothly and gracefully through waves rather than splashing and leaping like smaller species.


King Penguins are monogamous, and usually breed with the same partner during the following season. They are known to breed on sub-Antarctic and Antarctic islands, north of the northern limit of the pack ice, utilising beaches, valleys and moraines which are free of snow and ice, and from which the beach is easily accessible. The egg is incubated on the feet of the adults, which stay at the site of laying throughout the incubation period. Both parents incubate and tend to the young continuously until about 38 days after hatching, after which the young form creches for about nine months. King Penguins usually only feed their own chicks.

Living with us

The King Penguin is known to fallen prey to feral dogs on the Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean and its breeding habitat is known to have been destroyed by construction of buildings and roads on the Crozet Archipelago.

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