After an unfortunate internet outage, rendering me twitching with withdrawal I was unable to post yesterday, my apologies. Today I’m going to cover king penguins, a type of penguin we would often see whilst South. Today’s pictures are all taken on the beautiful and famous island of South Georgia, the island where I nearly lost an eye in a fight with an Antarctic tern.
Tall and proud as the emperor but only 20cm or so shorter, magnificent birds that reside on the sub-Antarctic islands in the lower latitudes, rather than the deep south like the Emp. They are clearly monty python fans, forever imitating ministry funny walks, slowly and deliberately to prevent over heating.
Kings are deep-divers feeding extensively on lantern fish and medium size squid, over half of their dives, lasting eight minutes, take them to a depth exceeding 50m although the deepest recorded was in excess of 240m. Few dives prove successful with much time spent travelling and searching.
Often in huge colonies they breed on raised beaches with easy access to water and extensive flat or shelving ground. They do not make nests but have a territory of an ‘arm’s length’ with they viciously defend if necessary. They have very unusual breeding arrangements in that their chick may take more than a year to fledge. A consequence of which means that they cannot breed annually, they have a bi annual approach.
Courting involves lots of displaying their brilliant orange flashes and loud antiphonal calling. The first eggs are laid in late November, the male standing the first incubation shift of two weeks, holding the large single egg between his feet and tucked into his brood patch.
The egg hatches in about 54 days and the parental shift pattern changes to around 3 days. At 6 weeks old the chick is already at half it’s of it’s adult weight and wearing a thick brown coat. It now joins other chicks in a communal crèche allowing both parents to go fishing. By April the chicks are fully grown but still need to survive the austral winter before they fledge in November.
After suffering extensive exploitation by man for their oil in the 19th and early 20th centuries, kings are now recovering in numbers. The world population is said to exceed a million pairs.