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the web of life in southern Africa

Aptenodytes patagonicus (King penguin) 

Koningpikkewyn [Afrikaans]; Koningspinguïn king [Dutch]; Manchot royal [French]; Königspinguin [German]; Pinguim-real [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Spheniscidae

Aptenodytes patagonicus (King penguin)  Aptenodytes patagonicus (King penguin) 

King penguins, Falkland Islands. [photo Jeffrey G. Hammond ©]

King penguins, Salisbury Plain, South Georgia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds on in colonies on sub-Antarctic Islands, before dispersing across the Southern Ocean in the non-breeding season, generally staying below 35° south. It occasionally lands on ships which take it further north; two birds have been found on vessels in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, South Africa.


It mainly eats small fish, such as lanternfish (Kreffichthys andersonnii and Electrona carlsbergi), as well as squid and crustaceans. It is an extremely strong and agile swimmer, capable of diving up to about 320 metres underwater in search of prey, swimming at about two metres per second.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.