What Do King Penguins Eat?

king-penguins-eat Credit: Mark Dumont/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

King penguins eat squids and fish. A carnivorous animal, king penguins especially like consuming the lantern fish. However, they also dine on other species of small fish, krill and small crustaceans.

King penguins live on sub-Antarctic islands and peninsulas, near the Falkland Islands, Prince Edward Islands, near southern Georgia and near both New Zealand and Australia. They forage in ice-free waters. They dive as far as 900 feet to forage, and they can stay submerged for as long as five minutes. However, they generally feed within 50 to 60 feet of the surface.

King penguins use their vision when hunting, and some scientists hypothesize this is why they consume lantern fish, which make conspicuous use of bio-luminescence. They catch their prey with their bills, swallowing them whole while still swimming. Their jaws are powerful and their tongues spiny, which help them grip slippery fish.

During breeding season, king penguins fast, never leaving their nesting areas for food. They also fast during molting because they cannot enter the water without their insular feathers. Because of the cold habitats and frigid waters they inhabit, they have developed four layers of feathering. The outer layers are oily, which makes them waterproof. During fasts, king penguins get energy from a layer of fat they accumulate. A full-grown king penguin can be as tall as three feet and weigh 35 pounds.