King Penguins are the second largest penguins after Emperor Penguins. Kings are sometimes confused with Emperors though their range is far to the north of the Emperor’s habitat in Antarctica. Captain James Cook’s voyage to Antarctica in 1775 encountered many King Penguins and the biologist with him Johann Reinhold Forster, drew many of them. It could well be that Captain Cook and Forster decided these large penguins, the largest they had ever seen, must be as much a King as George III of England and thus the given name. The word Penguin first appears in the 16th century as a synonym for the now extinct Great Auk. When European explorers discovered what are today known as Penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their similar appearance to the Great Auk of the Northern Hemisphere and named them after this bird, although they are not closely related. King Penguins stand about 90 centimeters tall and weigh about 15 kilograms. They have the classic tuxedo coloring with black backs and white bellies. Kings are also characterized by their bright orange ear patches. They can be found around the Oceanic Islands in sub-Antarctic and temperate waters.
Their breeding grounds include Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, Crozet and the islands southeast of Australia and southwest of New Zealand. King Penguins feed on small fish and squid during dives that average 10-20 meters during the summer months. In winter, they must forage deeper in the ocean and during this time foraging dives last from 5 minutes to over 1.5 hours. They are infrequent feeders, foraging every 2 weeks. In between foraging trips, these seabirds can lose up to half their body weight. Breeding behavior of the King Penguin is heralded by the trumpet-like song of the male who also exhibits a variety of courting behaviors such as extending the head up, throwing the head back and bowing to attract a female. Females lay their eggs during the summer months and males and females alternate incubating. Like the Emperor Penguin, King Penguins do not build nests; they incubate the eggs by carrying them on top of the feet under the belly. This species will raise 2 chicks only every 3 years because of the long brooding period that lasts about a year.