The King Penguin is a species from the Aptenodytes genus. It is the second known largest species of penguin at about 11 to 16 kg, second only to the Emperor Penguin.
Like all penguin species, it has a streamlined body to minimise drag while swimming, webbed feet to propel more force when swimming, and wings that have become stiff, flat flippers. There is little difference in plumage between the male and female, although the latter are slightly smaller. The upper parts features of the King Penguin include a silvery-grey back with a blackish-brown head decorated with ear patches of bright golden-orange. The lower mandible bears a striking pink or orange-coloured mandibular plate.
The bird dives in a V-shaped or 'spike' pattern in the remaining 12% of dives; that is the bird dives at an angle through the water column, reaches a certain depth and then returns to the surface. Other penguins dive in this latter foraging pattern in contrast.
King Penguins eat small fish, mainly lanternfish, and squid and rely less than most Southern Ocean predators on krill and other crustaceans.
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The King Penguin is able to breed at three years of age, although only a very small minority actually do then; the average age of first breeding is around 6 years. The King Penguin has an unusually prolonged breeding cycle, taking some 14–16 months from laying to offspring fledging. The reproductive cycle begins in September to November, as birds return to colonies for a prenuptial moult. The female penguin lays one pyriform white egg weighing 300 g. The egg is incubated for around 55 days with both birds sharing incubation in shifts of 6–18 days each. By April the chicks are almost fully grown, but lose weight by fasting over the winter months, gaining it again during spring in September. The lifespan is typically 20 years in the wild.