There are now two recognised subspecies; A. patagonicus patagonicus found at South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and in southern Chile and A. patagonicus halli at the Kerguelen Islands, Crozet Island, Prince Edward Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Macquarie Island. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are home to the world’s largest breeding colony of King Penguins, estimated to be around 450,000 pairs. Globally, the King Penguin population stands at around 1.6 million breeding pairs – a number that continues to grow.
King Penguins are the second largest of the 18 species of penguin. They have a black head, chin, and throat, bright white bellies, with vivid orange, tear-shaped patches on each side of the head. The orange coloration extends to the upper chest. At between 70-100 centimetres in height and weighing between 10-16kgs the King Penguin is approximately 25% shorter and weighs around 1/3rd less than the Emperor Penguin – the largest penguin species. King Penguin males are slightly larger than females.
King Penguin Viewing
To see King Penguins in the wild you need to hop on a cruise that explores some sub-Antarctic islands – on Antarctic cruises heading only to the Antarctic Peninsula you will not encounter King Penguins. One of the best choices is an itinerary combining the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula (ranging between 18 and 23 days in length). Alternatively a Ross Sea voyage that includes Macquarie Island is the other option most regularly considered.
All itineraries are designed to get you off the ship and into the wilderness as much as possible. You will get the chance to go ashore by Zodiac and walk amongst the penguins, with some colonies numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The penguins are so used to human presence that you can get within mere metres, providing plenty of superb photography opportunities and memories to last a lifetime. A cruise to one of these islands where King Penguins live will literally make you feel like you are on the set of your very own wildlife documentary!