The King Penguin is the second-largest penguin in the world. It stands about 70 cm tall (30 in.) and weighs between 9 and 15 kg (20 lb. to 30 lb.).
King Penguins are often confused with Emperor Penguins because they have similar colouration. Like most penguins, they have white bellies, silver-grey backs and blackish heads. King Penguins are distinguished from other penguins by the vibrant orange of their upper breast area and an orange tear-shaped patch over each ear.
Males and females are almost identical in appearance. Close observation of their behaviour is the best way to tell the difference between them. Chicks are covered with dark brown, downy feathers. Their appearance is so different from that of the adults that they were once thought to be a different species: the "woolly penguin".
Most penguins can hop when on land, but King Penguins can only walk or run. Also, their feet have a unique function: adult penguins use their feet instead of a nest. The female lays one egg per breeding season. The parents take turns keeping the egg on their feet, tucked under a fold of warm, feathery skin on their lower abdomen. It takes about eight weeks for the egg to hatch. Young King Penguins stay with their parents for about 13 months.
King Penguins are strong swimmers and skilled fishers who use their wings as flippers. They can dive as deep as 300 m (985 ft.) and swim as fast as 10 km/h (6 MPH). They can see well in darkness because they have specially adapted eyesight. In daylight, their pupils shrink to the size of a pinhole. When light is low, such as deep under water, their pupils expand greatly. This amazing vision lets them catch up to 2000 fish per day! (It helps that some of the fish glow in the dark!)
King Penguins live close to Antarctica on the Falkland Islands, the Macquarie Islands, the Îles Crozet, Heard Island and Marion Island. They gather in groups, and prefer beaches or flat, rocky areas that are free of snow and ice. One colony can include as many as 600 000 birds! Even though the colony is enormous, each family of Kings has its own space, which the adults protect by slapping or pecking any other penguin that gets too close.