King Penguin
King Penguin

King Penguin

Witness the remarkable site and sound of colonies of 100,000 King Penguins!

Information about King Penguin

Our Expert Says… "One of the great highlights of a trip to South Georgia. King penguins' breeding cycle from pair-bonding to raising a chick takes almost a year, plus another 6 months for molting and fattening. This is the longest of any penguin species and hence their need for all-year-round access to the sea and preference for the ice-free islands."

The iconic King Penguin is the second-largest penguin species in Antarctica. Growing up to an impressive 1.3m (4ft 4”) in height, these large birds can weigh up to 18kg (40 lbs)! Males and females look alike, and both sport the bright orange cheek patch that distinguishes them from their larger cousin, the Emperor penguin.

King penguins are found throughout the sub-Antarctic islands, as well as the Falklands and Tierra del Fuego. They are renowned for forming huge breeding colonies. For example, the colony at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia island is made up of over 100,000 pairs - a remarkable sight and sound!

King penguins don’t build nests like some other penguin species, but their egg is incubated by being placed on the top of the penguins’ feet and being covered by a “brood pouch” that both males and females have at the base of their belly. The parents take it in turns in 2-week shifts to look after the egg and the newly-hatched chicks in this way until they have enough feathers and fat deposits to keep themselves warm.

King penguin chicks take a lot of looking after and aren’t ready to take to the open ocean for themselves for well over a year. Once they have grown large enough to keep themselves warm, they come together in large creches while the parent birds go off to hunt for food. They will stay like this over their first winter, sheltering together in groups.

The diet of King Penguins is mainly small fish, krill, and squid. Although a little ungainly on land, King Penguins are fast and streamlined in the water. They have been recorded diving as deep as 1,000ft to hunt, and regularly stay underwater for 5 minutes before needing to breathe.

Adult King Penguins are preyed on by leopard seals, orcas, and Antarctic fur seals. Their chicks are vulnerable to attack by seabirds, including giant petrels and skuas.

Pictures of King Penguin

Seabirds

Highlights where the King Penguin can be seen

polartours
Grytviken, Fortuna Bay

Grytviken only exists because of the whaling industry. It was opened as a whaling station in 1904 because Fortuna Bay was considered to be the best natural harbor in South Georgia. The site operated for almost 60 years and over 53,000 whale carcasses were landed and processed here.

Although founded by a Norwegian, the name “Grytviken” is actually Swedish! It means “Pot Bay” and was named by the Swedish survey expedition of 1902 because they found several old British try pots here - large vessels used to render down seal blubber.

The whaling station was abandoned in 1966 as uneconomical after stocks of whales in the region had dropped to critical levels due to over-hunting, and there are no permanent residents. However, a few officials do live here during the tourist season to manage the South Georgia Museum and the post office which is located here, that is fascinating place to visit, and even purchase some souvenirs

There is more famous Antarctic human history to discover at Grytviken. Just outside the settlement lies the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer, who died here from a sudden heart attack in 1922. There is also a marker next to his grave marking the spot where the ashes of his key crew member and fellow explorer Frank Wild were interred.

As well as the museum, Grytviken also has a church - remarkably still used for occasional services.

While most people come here for human history, the area is also great for wildlife and natural history doesn’t disappoint. Fortuna Bay is known for its large king penguin colonies and is a popular haul out for many elephant seals, as well as innumerable seabirds. Just watch out for the fur seals that may be resting amongst the whaling era debris.

Saunders Island

Saunders Island (known in Spanish as Isla Trinidad) is in the northwest of the Falkland Islands group and is the 4th largest individual island with 50 square miles of land.

Saunders Island is geographically stunning, as well as rich with remarkable wildlife. The island is made up of three peninsulas that are joined by narrow necks of land. The three uplands towner over the necks, with the tallest, Mount Richards, being 1,500ft above the waves below. The views from the headlands are astonishing.

Saunders Island has been designated an Important Bird Area (or IBA) thanks to the large numbers of breeding species that make their homes here. The beaches and cliffs are home to four species of penguin with thousands of Gentoo, Rockhopper, Magellanic, King penguins - you can’t avoid hearing their raucous cries from all over the island! There also tend to be a few Macaroni Penguins and if you are lucky to see then you will have had a five penguin species day!

Other significant species to be found on Saunders include Falkland Steamer Duck, King Shag, Black-browed Albatross, the Striated Caracara (can be very inquisitive), Turkey Vulture, and a range of shorebirds, like the Magellanic Oystercatcher, to terrestrial birds from land birds from Dark-faced Ground Tyrants to the white-bridled finch. There are rats on the island so you do not tend to see the Blackish Cincloides or Tussacbird.

In the waters off the sandy shoreline, you can see the delightful Commerson’s dolphins - their black and white markings making them seem like miniature orcas - and even South American Sea Lions. Visiting Elephant Point will bring you face-to-face with the small colony of elephant seals that live here and gave their name to the beach. At the right time of year, if you are lucky, you might find southern right whales in the sheltered bays here feeding and resting before moving on.

The Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands (known in Argentina as Islas Malvinas) is an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean. Most people may be familiar with them because of the conflict that was fought here by armed forces from Argentina and the UK in 1982, but there is so much more to the Falklands.

Inhabited since 1764, these remote islands have been colonized and claimed by many countries - France and Spain have claimed them (and Argentina since its formation and former Spanish colony) although it’s the British descendants who make up the majority of the islands’ 4,000 population. As a British Overseas Territory, the Falklands are self-governing, but the UK is responsible for defense and foreign affairs. Argentina still disputes the sovereignty of the islands they call the Malvinas.

Made up of two large islands (East and West Falkland) and over 700 smaller islands and islets, the Falklands are as beautiful as they are rugged and remote. Despite its history as a base for South Atlantic whalers and sealers, and more recently extensive sheep farming, the Falkland Islands have retained great biodiversity, and modern conservation has ensured many previously struggling wild species are now returning.

The Falklands is home to important populations of albatross, having some of the largest breeding sites in the world. They are also home to the rare striated caracara, 63 species of nesting land bird, and 5 penguin species. Seals, whales, dolphins, and other marine life are also abundant. Finally, the rugged landscape itself has a stark beauty, and the islanders, although hardy, offer everyone the warmest of welcomes, usually accompanied by a hearty Falklands Tea.

Fishing and farming account for the vast majority of the Falklands Islands income, although tourism is increasingly important. Many of the farms on the islands are now managed with wildlife conservation in mind, and the Falklands is a wildlife management success story.

Although most ships visit Stanley (usually for a day), the main focus on 'expedition' cruises are the outer islands with all the wildlife, and some of the special breeding birds like Black-browed Albatross and Southern Rockhopper Penguins and some Patagonia specialists like the Striated Caracara. Also bear in mind, with cruises that also go to South Georgia and the peninsula, only 2 or 3 days are normally spent in the Falklands, although some cruises spend longer here.

Our trips to spot the King Penguin

Price
Min Price

USD 3800

Max Price

USD 31000

Duration (days)
Min Days

5

Max Days

26