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1200106A Pair of King Penguins print copy

Pair of King Penguins

The king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is a large species of penguin, second only to the emperor penguin in size. 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. They are less reliant on krill and other crustaceans than most Southern Ocean predators. On foraging trips king penguins repeatedly dive to over 100 metres (300 ft), and have been recorded at depths greater than 300 metres (1,000 ft). King penguins breed on the subantarctic islands at the northern reaches of Antarctica, South Georgia, and other temperate islands of the region.

Description Edit

The king penguin stands at 70 to 100 cm (28 to 39 in) tall and weighs from 9.3 to 18 kg (21 to 40 lb). Males are slightly larger than females. The mean body mass of adults from Marion Island was 12.4 kg (27 lb) for 70 males and 11.1 kg (24 lb) for 71 females. Another study from Marion Island found that the mean mass of 33 adults feeding chicks was 13.1 kg (29 lb). Thus the average weight of the king penguin is similar or just slightly higher than that of the largest living flying birds. The plumage of the king penguin is broadly similar to that of the closely related emperor penguin, with a broad cheek patch contrasting with surrounding dark feathers and yellow-orange color at the top of the chest, however the cheek patch of the adult king penguin is bright orange whereas that of the emperor penguins is white, while the chest orange tends to be more vivid and less yellowish in the king species. Both species have colorful markings along the side of their lower mandible, but these are pinkish in emperor penguins and orange in king penguins. Emperor and king penguins do not occur together in the wild typically, with the possible exception of vagrants at sea, but the emperor can readily be distinguished by being noticeably larger and bulkier. Once fully molted of its heavy dark brown down, the juvenile king penguin resembles the adult but is somewhat less colorful. King penguins often breed on the same large, circumpolar islands as at least half of all living penguins, but it is easily distinguished from co-occurring penguins by its much larger size and taller frame, distinctive markings and grizzled sooty-grayish rather than blackish back.

Identification: The second-largest penguin species, similar in appearance to Emperor Penguin, but their ranges do not usually overlap. Cheeks are dark orange. The belly is white but the back is paler than other penguins, more of a grey than black. Immatures are similar to adults, but with duller facial plumage. Ear patches are pale yellow rather than orange and the throat is grey-white. Reaches adult plumage after two years.

Distribution and Habitat Edit

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. The largest breeding populations are on the Crozet Islands, 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.

Behavior Edit

Habits: Dense colonies, which can number several tens of thousand pairs, are located amongst tussocks, gently sloping beaches, and sometimes can be over a kilometre inland. No nest is built, but pairs still maintain territories within pecking distance of each other.

Migration and Vagrancy: Due to the extended breeding cycle some birds can be found in the colony at any time of the year. During winter, adults leave their chicks unattended and may travel extensively before returning. Stragglers have reached the Antarctic Peninsula, Mawson, Gough Island, South Africa, southern Australia (including Tasmania), the North and South Islands of New Zealand, as well as New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands.

Diet: King Penguins are specialised on pelagic fish, in particular laternfish of the species Electrona carlsbergi , Kreffichthys anderssoni and Protomyctophum tenisoni, which can make up over 99 % of the diet. Cephalopods play a minor role and, to an even lesser extent, so do crustaceans.

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