Royal penguins are a species of crested penguin that inhabit the waters around Antarctica. The males, which are larger than the females, grow to about 30 inches in length. Though they roam as far as Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and other nearby islands, they only breed on Macquarie Island. Hunted for their oil between 1870 and 1919, the species is considered vulnerable to extinction.
Royal penguins build up layers of fat by feeding on krill, squid, crustaceans and small fish. This enables them to survive the mating period without foraging for food. They live together in large colonies. The males arrive on Macquarie Island first, scrape hollows in the ground and construct nests of small rocks and plants. Royal penguins are mainly monogamous and return to the same mates, but unmated males seek out females with special body movements and sounds.
Females lay two eggs a year. The first is usually smaller than the second and is pushed out of the nest. The parents take turns incubating the second until it hatches after 30 or 40 days. Afterwards, the male protects the chick, while the female hunts for and delivers food. After 70 days, the chick, now a young adult, is ready to strike out on its own.
The population of royal penguins is under threat mainly because they breed in such a small area. This leaves them vulnerable to invasive predators, oil spills or extreme weather.