Aptenodytes patagonicus

KING_PENGUIN_Aptenodytes_patagonicusThe king penguin, largest of the Falkland penguins, is at the northern edge of its global range in the Falkland Islands. The Falklands population (c.1000-1500 breeding adults) is almost entirely concentrated at one site, Volunteer Point Important Bird Area (616kb PDF), Volunteer Point for visitors, East Falkland. The king penguin is a very handsome bird. It has bright orange ear patches leading to an orange-yellow fore neck, a silver white breast with blue-grey back, and black feet. Juveniles are covered in brown fluffy plumage and often appear larger than their parents. There are more than 1,000 breeding adults at the colony and over 500 chicks are raised each year. King penguins are increasing throughout their entire range. They have a circumpolar distribution and also breed at South Georgia, the Crozet Islands and Kerguelen, Heard and Macquarie Islands. The world population is estimated at 1.2 million. It is thought that the Falkland king penguin population expansion may be due to overcrowding further south at South Georgia.

Vital Statistics

Height: 85- 95 cm (3 ft) Second largest penguin species in the world
Weight: 12 – 15kg (males are heavier then the females)
Age: 20 years
Breeding age:  4-6 years.
Predators:  Leopard seals and killer whales at sea. Skuas take eggs and small chicks.


Breeding Cycle 

The breeding cycle of a King penguin takes more than one year, meaning that they can only raise two chicks in any three year period.

king_penguin_and_chick_M_ReevesEgg period One egg is laid between November and March. It takes 55 days to incubate the egg and the job is shared by both parents.

Small chick Chicks start hatching from Januray.The small chick is never left unattended and both parents share shifts of feeding and caring for the chick

Large chick (March)The large chicks group together in crèches. Both parents go to sea to bring back food for the growing chick.

Winter (April - August) Chicks stay on land for the winter whilst both parents go to sea. Adults return to the colony less frequently and chicks can lose up to 50% of their body weight.

Juvenile Moult (October - November) Parents return after the winter to carry on feeding the large chicks. The chicks begin to moult into their adult feathers.

Juvenile Depart (November - December)The juveniles have full adult feathers and are large enough to fend for themselves and will depart for the sea around November to December.

Adult Moult The adults remain on shore and after their chicks have fledged they moult their feathers (24-30 days). The adults take a year of and will breed again the following year.

Going to sea and diet

King penguins are adept swimmers and divers and spend large periods of their lives at sea. King penguins eat small fish called myctophids or lantern fish as well as squid. King penguins dive deeper than any other penguins diving up to 300m in search of their prey. During the breeding season the penguins forage close to the Falklands, but during the winter they must look further for the food and can travel hundreds of miles in search of food.

Read more about where satellite tracked King penguins go

King penguins at Volunteer Point - a guide for visitors

Pistorius P, Baylis A, Crofts S, Putz K. (2012) Population development and historical occurrence of King penguins at the Falkland Islands. Antarctic Science.

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