King Penguin Facts - Can You Keep a Penguin as a Pet?

King Penguin

What is a king penguin?

King penguins are the second largest of the penguin species (after the Emperor penguin), on average they are around 15kg (33lb) and 95cm (3.1ft) high.

Male king penguins are slightly larger than females, but the sexes look nearly identical in appearance. However, king penguin chicks boast fluffy, dark brown plumage that looks so different from the adults, they were once thought to be a separate species altogether, known as the woolly penguin.

Major colonies are found on Crozet, Prince Edward Island, Kerguelen Island, Heard Island, South Georgia and Macquarie Island.


How old do king penguins live?

King Penguins can live up to 25 years in the wild.


They're super friendly with people. Penguins' main predators (seals, sea lions, whales, and sharks) all reside in the water, so these birds feel much safer on land around researchers and tourists — for better or for worse. Some penguins build pebble nests.
Can penguins freeze to death?
If they become waterlogged, they can easily freeze to death in conditions below zero. This sad outcome is something that scientists and guides working in Antarctica are noticing more and more as the continent warms up.

What is unusual about the breeding cycle of King penguins?

King penguins live on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands rather than in the deep south. There are two distinct groups, early breeders and late breeders. Early breeders lay eggs in November (early summer) which hatch around mid-January, the chicks are reared and reach about 90% of adult weight by April when they are independent. An individual penguin can flip between being an early or late breeder.

Late breeders lay and incubate their eggs from January until March, late summer. Parental visits become fewer and further between over the winter and the chicks are left to survive blizzards and severe conditions on their own. They keep alive by using their fat reserves, the parents return to feed them about once every four to six weeks.

It can be as much as 3 months between feeds however and a 5 month wait has even been endured by a surviving chick. The chicks may lose up to 50% of their body weight at these times.

Though harsh, the winter conditions are nowhere near as bad as emperor penguins are enduring further south.


Are king penguins endangered?

King penguins are subjected to tourist presence mainly in the Falkland Islands and also on South Georgia, the impact of tourism is very low currently. Penguins in general are tolerant of tourists and are not alarmed by their presence as long as they do not enter the colony.

King penguins are currently not influenced by any fishery as they themselves are not taken and their prey is not currently taken commercially, so industrial fishing is not affecting their numbers.


Can You Keep a Penguin as a Pet?

The laws regarding penguins are far stricter than with other exotic animals, not just in the US, but in the entire world. Suffice to say that penguins are definitely illegal to keep as pets in America.


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