The king penguin takes this title with its 3-foot stature, second only to the large emperor penguin that is 4 feet tall. It lives in colonies numbering 10’s of thousands of pairs on various the sub-Antarctic islands.
This penguin’s main diet is fish, but it also eats some krill. Leopard seals are a constant danger to the penguin when it is in the cold Antarctic waters.
A king penguin pair does not build a nest, but incubate a single egg on their feet covered by a brood pouch on their belly. The couple takes turns with this process until the chick hatches about 55 days later. The chick takes a long time to fledge – about 15 months and is not able to breed until it is three to five years old. This results in a pair only able to raise two chicks in three years.
You might think that this is a recipe for a decline in this bird’s population, but it remains a large stable population with four to five million birds. In the 18 and 19 hundred’s people hunted the king penguin resulting in some colonies being eradicated, but the banning of commercial hunting helped them rebound. (Photograph from Empire of the Penguin exhibit at SeaWorld, Florida.)