King Penguin


King Penguin (Aptenodytes Patagonicus)

The king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is the second largest species of penguin at 70 to 100 cm tall and weighs 11 to 16 kg (24 to 35 lb). In size it is second only to the emperor penguin. There are two subspecies—A. p. patagonicus and A. p. hallipatagonicus is found in the South Atlantic and halli elsewhere.

King penguins eat small fish, mainly lanternfish, and squid and rely less than most Southern Ocean predators on krill and other crustaceans. On foraging trips they repeatedly dive to over 100 metres (330 ft), and have been recorded at depths greater than 300 metres (980 ft).[2]

King penguins breed on the subantarctic islands at the northern reaches of Antarctica, South Georgia, and other temperate islands of the region.

Distribution and habitat

King penguins breed on subantarctic islands between 45 and 55°S, at the northern reaches of Antarctica, as well as Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and other temperate islands of the region. The total population is estimated to be 2.23 million pairs and is increasing.[3] The largest breeding populations are on Crozet Island, with around 455,000 pairs, 228,000 pairs on the Prince Edward Islands, 240,000–280,000 on the Kerguelen Islands and over 100,000 in the South Georgia archipelago. Macquarie Island has around 70,000 pairs. The non-breeding range is poorly known due to vagrant birds having been recorded from the Antarctic peninsula as well as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The Nature Protection Society released king penguins in Gjesvær in Finnmark, and Røst in Lofoten in northern Norway in August 1936. Birds were reported in the area several times in the 1940s though none have been seen since 1949.[4]


American zoologist Gerry Kooyman revolutionized the study of penguin foraging behaviour in 1971 when he published his results from attaching automatic dive-recording devices to emperor penguins,[5] and recording a dive of 235 metres (771 ft) by a king penguin in 1982.[6] The current maximum dive recorded is 343 metres in the Falkland Islands region,[7] and a maximum time submerged of 552 seconds recorded at the Crozet Islands.[8] The king penguin dives to depths of 100–300 meters (350–1000 feet), spending around five minutes submerged, during daylight hours, and less than 30 metres (98 ft) at night.[9][10]


The majority (around 88% in one study) of dives undertaken by king penguins are flat-bottomed; that is, the penguin dives to a certain depth and remains there for a period of time hunting (roughly 50% of total dive time) before returning to the surface. They have been described as U-shaped or W-shaped, relating to the course of the dive. The bird dives in a V-shaped or “spike” pattern in the remaining 12% of dives; that is the bird dives at an angle through the water column, reaches a certain depth and then returns to the surface. Other penguins dive in this latter foraging pattern in contrast.[9][11] Observations at Crozet Islands revealed most king penguins were seen within 30 km (19 mi) of the colony.[12] Using the average swimming speed, Kooyman estimated the distance travelled to foraging areas at 28 km (17 mi).[9]

Its average swimming speed is 6.5–10 km/h (4–6 mph). On shallower dives under 60 m (200 ft), it averages 2 km/h (1.2 mph) descending and ascending, while on deeper dives over 150 m (490 ft) deep, it averages 5 km/h (3.1 mph) in both directions.[10][13] King penguins also porpoise, a swimming technique used to breathe while maintaining speed. On land, the king penguin alternates between walking with a wobbling gait and tobogganing—sliding over the ice on its belly, propelled by its feet and wing-like flippers. Like all penguins, it is flightless.[14]


King penguins eat small fish and squid and rely less than most Southern Ocean predators on krill and other crustaceans. Fish constitute 80–100% of their diet, except in winter months of July and August, when they make up only 30%.[10] Lanternfish are the main fish taken, principally the species Electrona carlsbergi and Krefftichthys anderssoni, as well as Protomyctophum tenisoni. Slender escolar (Paradiplospinus gracilis) of the Gempylidae, and Champsocephalus gunneri, is also consumed. Cephalopods consumed include those of the genus Moroteuthis, the hooked squid or Kondakovia longimana, the sevenstar flying squid (Martialia hyadesii), young Gonatus antarcticus and Onychoteuthis species.[10]

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