Height: 37 inches standing
Regions: Native to the following areas: Argentina, Chile, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), French Southern Territories, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands. Vagrant to the following areas: Antarctica, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Saint Helena, South Africa, and Uruguay
Many years ago, king penguins suffered due to commercial hunting for their eggs, oil, feathers, and blubber. But now, as the international population is protected by law, there may be as many as two million king penguin breeding pairs on the planet.
King penguins are the second largest penguin species, sometimes even confused with emperors because of their size and coloring. Also, like emperor penguins, king penguins do not build nests for their eggs.
King penguins have particularly interesting mating behaviors. Males have an extravagant courtship ritual during which they attempt to woo mates by calling out a trumpet-like song, tossing their heads forward and back, and even bowing.
Kings are carnivorous birds, but they only eat every two weeks or so. Between their hunting trips, these penguins can lose up to 50 percent of their body weight. When hunger strikes, they retreat to the sea to forage for squid and small fish. During the cold winter months, king penguins must take longer, deeper dives in search of food, sometimes staying beneath the surface for over an hour at a time.
Biologists often study penguins because the species is sensitive to global warming. But a relatively new concern has arisen. Metal flipper bands—which are attached to a king penguin's wing to track migration, reproductive behaviors, and survival rates—may actually harm the birds. Some conservationists believe that banded birds have a disadvantage in the water, requiring longer, slower foraging trips. One study found that a band's material, shape, and fit, in combination with the penguin species, determine whether or not the bands will negatively affect the individual penguin. This penguin conservation issue is an ongoing area of research.