King Penguin

(Aptenodytes patagonicus)




Facts about this animal

The King penguin is the second largest penguin, 100 cm tall and reaching a body-weight of 13-16 kg. The colour of the head is glossy black with a golden-orange, comma-shaped wedge behind the eye tapering towards the orange upper breast. The upperparts are-grey, and separated by a black margin from the white under parts. The bill is long and slightly decurved at the tip, with a broad tapering band of orange at the base of the mandible.

The breeding season of the King penguin is the southern summer, when food is more available. Each pair establishes a s small breeding territory of less than 1 m² within the very dense colony, which it defends vigorously against other penguins. The female lays one egg and hands it over to the male, which will start incubating. To this end, it has an abdominal fold, the "brood pouch", between its legs and lower abdomen. The female then goes to the open sea and will return in about 21 days to take her turn keeping the egg warm.

The chick hatches in about 54 days. It grows quickly during the warm summer weather and grows a warm brown fussy down of feathers and a thick layer of blubber to keep it warm during the winter months ahead. It is cared for by both parents for 30 to 40 days. At this time it joins a crèche for warmth and protection from predators. The parents will now hunt in the sea and from time to time come onshore to feed the young. In the following spring, the chick starts to grow its adult feathers and is ready to go off on its own.

King penguins feed mainly on fish. In addition they take smaller amounts of squid and crustaceans.

Did you know?
that adult penguins are countershaded (dark dorsal, light ventral) because this helps to conceal swimming penguins from predators such as killer whales, sharks or leopard seals? When viewed from above, the dark dorsal side blends in with the darker ocean depths. When viewed from beneath, the light ventral side helps in with the lighter surface of the sea.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Aptenodytes patagonicus
Name (English) King Penguin
Name (French) Manchot royal
Name (German) Königspinguin
Name (Spanish) Pingüino rey
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Ben Tubby



Range Antarctica and subantarctic regions: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), French Southern Territories, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, South Africa, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Uruguay. Vagrants also in New Zealand, Brazil and Uruguay
Habitat Pelagic, coasts, ice fields
Wild population The global population is estimated to be in the order of 2,000,000 individuals.
Zoo population 422 reported to ISIS (2008), predominantly of the subspecies Aptenodytes patagonicus patagonicus

In the Zoo

King Penguin


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 22 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Mila Zinkova

Why do zoos keep this animal

The king penguin is currently not threatened with extinction. Zoos keep king penguins therefore primarily for educational purposes to demonstrate how the birds adapted to arctic and maritime conditions and thus became able to expand their range into the seas and the south polar zone. Of course the king penguin is also an excellent ambassador for its ecosystem and may serve as a flagship species for campaigns or educational programmes raising awareness about Global Warming.