Macquarie Island: Sandy Bay – King Penguins

Four species of penguins nest on Macquarie Island, with king penguins being the most spectacular. King penguins are second largest penguins in the world after the emperor penguins, with the global population of around 2-3 million pairs, and about 10% of that being on Macquarie Island. They are very colorful, slender and elegant, and embody the classical notion of what a penguin looks like. They stand around 1m tall and weigh about 25kg, congregating in massively spectacular colonies. King penguins are deep divers, going below 50m depth in search of squid and lantern fish – their main menu. Unlike other penguin species that prefer nesting at elevation, king penguins usually choose wide sandy beaches with easy access to the ocean (probably lazy to climb up higher). They lay one egg around October and then parents take long 2-week turns fishing while the egg incubated for 54 days. After the chick hatches, parents take faster turns to get the growing baby food, the latter growing very rapidly. The king penguin chicks have very thick furry brown coats and look nothing like king penguins. Many grow to the size larger than their parents and look like some sort of Lord of the Rings monsters, running around and screaming – still somehow cute. King penguins have a long breeding cycle, so that only 2 chicks are born over each 3-year period. King penguin colonies are never found further south beyond 60th parallel, while emperor penguins never venture beyond the Antarctic circle, so the two can never be seen together.