When we think of Antarctica we immediately picture penguins—from cute penguin families waddling over the ice to majestic creatures standing tall and proud, yellow markings on their heads and necks, their black feathers resembling a tailcoat. The latter describes king penguins, the second largest of all penguin species. At a height of up to three feet, they belong to the group of "great penguins," together with their even taller brother, the emperors. Despite their rather grandiose, elegant looks, emperor penguins are in fact powerful, high-performance athletes—they can dive to depths of 984 feet while being submerged, hunting, for up to nine minutes.
Penguin Parents' Secret of Success: Job Sharing
Anyone lucky enough to come across king penguin chicks in the Antarctic summer (when winter reigns in the Northern Hemisphere) will encounter the most charming chicks in the entire animal kingdom—delightfully adorable with their silver-gray, fluffy down. After the egg is incubated for nearly two months with both parents alternating shifts, the chick will spend its first 30-40 days resting on their parents' feet in a protective abdominal fold. One of the parents keeps the baby warm while the other looks for food, then they change over. But they have to do this quickly as the chicks can only be exposed to the Antarctic temperatures for a few seconds. After a few weeks, the little ones are ready to go it alone and spend their time among other penguins of the same age, always huddled together to stay warm. King penguins live to be around 20 years old, although some are known to have reached the ripe age of 50!
Would You Like to Encounter the Kings of the Antarctic?
You can find them on the pack ice around the northern reaches of Antarctica, the Prince Edward Islands, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. See them for yourself when you join us on an Antarctic expedition!