Cool fact…
Until the recent volcanic activity on the McDonald Islands, Big Ben on Heard Island was Australia's only active volcano. Fresh lava flows were observed during the 2003/04 summer, including a flow through the Gotley Glacier that almost reached the sea.

King penguin

King Penguins at Heard Island
King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) at Heard Island. Photo by E. McIvor (Photo: Ewan McIvor)

Vital statistics

Scientific name: Aptenodytes patagonicus

Height: 85–95 cm

Weight:9–16 kg (varies throughout the breeding season)

Breeding age: ~6 years

Breeding frequency: A successful pair of king penguins is likely to breed two out of three years

Breeding season: Highly protracted, laying occurs any time from November to April, usually peaking in December

Age to fledging: ~ 310 days

Longevity: Probably 25+ years

Name Derivation: "Featherless diver from Patagonia" – being birds, penguins do have
feathers, of course!

Foraging statistics

What do I eat? Ice fish (lots of it), and some squid.

What eats me? Orcas and perhaps leopard seals when at sea; eggs and chicks are eaten by skuas and giant petrels.

Range trip time: 3 days to 3 weeks depending on breeding stage.

Range trip length: varies with breeding stage from 600 – >2500 km.

Depth of water where foraging: 200 – 4000 m but in summer king penguins dive mainly to depths of around 50 – 120 m, and in winter to 150 – 240 m.

Extreme dive depth/time: 300 m / ~8 minutes.

Distribution and abundance

Distribution: King penguins breed on most subantarctic islands in the Southern Ocean, including South Georgia, Marion, Prince Edward, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard, Macquarie and the Falkland Islands.

Abundance: Very difficult to estimate population sizes at large colonies: South Georgia, Îles Crozet and Macquarie Islands have several hundred thousands pairs. Almost all breeding populations are increasing.

General comments

Most Heard Island king penguins breed at the southeastern end of the island. The largest colony is at Doppler Hill, numbering more than 25,000 breeding pairs. A smaller colony is present at Spit Bay, with about 1500 pairs.

More information can be found on other Heard Island penguin species:

This page was last modified on 28 February 2005.