King Penguin King Penguin
King Penguin

Scientific Classification

Common Name
king penguin
Genus Species
Aptenodytes patagonicus

Fast Facts

The king penguin has a black head, chin, and throat, with vivid orange, tear-shaped patches on each side of the head. The orange coloration extends to the upper chest.
94 cm (37 in.)
13.5 to 16 kg (30 to 35 lbs.)
Squids & fishes
Approximately 55 days
Sexual Maturity
4 to 5 years
Life Span
15 to 20 years
Subantarctic islands and peninsulas
They prefer beaches and valleys of level ground or gentle slopes, free of snow and ice, and accessible to the sea.
Approximately 1,600,000 breeding pairs
IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

King penguins walk slowly and do not hop.

The pupil of a penguin's eye is circular. However, when constricted, the pupils of a king penguin's eye are square.

The king penguin has the longest breeding cycle of all the penguin species, lasting 14 to 16 months. A female king penguin may produce a chick during alternate breeding seasons.

Like emperor penguins, king penguins do not build nests. Instead, they stand upright and incubate the egg on the tops of their feet under a loose fold of abdominal skin called a brood patch. Unlike emperor penguins, king penguin parents take turns incubating the egg.

King penguin chicks hatch naked and grow down feathers within a few weeks. The chick is dependent upon its parents for survival until it grows its waterproof feathers, which can be up to 13 months.

For more information about penguins, explore the Penguin InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

All 18 species of penguin are legally protected from hunting and egg collecting. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 makes it illegal to harm, or in any way interfere with, a penguin or its eggs. Every penguin specimen collected with a permit must be approved by and reported to the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR). Penguins are vulnerable to habitat destruction, overfishing of primary food sources, ecological disasters such as oil spills, pollution such as trash in the ocean, and human encroachment into nesting areas.


Coats, Judith. Penguins: Flightless Birds of the Southern Hemisphere. SeaWorld Education Department, 2001.

Nuzzolo, Debbie. Penguin March. SeaWorld Education Department, 2002.

BirdLife International 2018. Aptenodytes patagonicus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22697748A132599901. Downloaded on 09 March 2020.