Adelie
African
Blue
Chinstrap
Emperor
Erect Crested
Fiordland
Galapagos
Gentoo
Humboldt
King
Macaroni
Magellanic
Rockhopper
Royal
Snares Crested
Yellow-Eyed

Description

Royals look very much like Macaroni Penguins, but have a white face and chin instead of the Macaronis' black visage. They are 65–76 cm (26–30 in) long and weigh 3–8 kg (6.6–18 lb). Males are larger than females. They are not to be confused with the similarly named King Penguin or Emperor Penguin. There is some controversy over whether Royal Penguins are a sub-species of Macaroni Penguins. Individuals of the two groups have been known to interbreed, though this is a relatively rare occurrence. Indeed, other penguins have been known to form mixed-species pairs in the wild.

Habitat

The Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) inhabits the waters surrounding Antarctica. Royal Penguins breed only on Macquarie Island and, like other penguins, spend much of their time at sea, where they are assumed to be pelagic. Royal Penguins nest on beaches or on bare areas on slopes covered with vegetation. Like most seabirds they are colonial, nesting in scrapes on the ground up to a mile inland.

Breeding

The breeding season begins in September with laying starting in October. They build their nest by making a shallow hole in the sand or in a weeded area. They put plants and stones inside the nest. Most of the time, two eggs are often laid, however, only one survives. The egg is kept warm by both parents for 35 days. This is done by rotating 12 day shifts. After hatching, the male watches out for the chick for 10 to 20 days and the female brings food for both of them. Around 20 days, the chicks will form a home for warmth and safety. The parents continue to feed it 2 to 3 times a day. When the chick is about 65 days old it will have its adult feathers and goes on its own.

Diet

Royal Penguins feed on krill, fish, and small amounts of squid.

Threats

Royal Penguins are not considered threatened. Historically they were harvested for their oil; between 1870 and 1919 the government of Tasmania issuing licences for hunting them, with an average of 150,000 penguins (both Royal and King) being taken each year. Since the end of penguin hunting on Macquarie the numbers have climbed to 850,000 pairs. Before hunting started, there were 3 million penguins on the island (both Royal and King). On land, rats take some eggs and young. Breeding success can be reduced as a result of disturbance by researchers and tourists. Marine pollution, particularly ingested plastics, kills some birds. Fishing around sub-Antarctic islands may also adversely affect the species. The most likely long-term threat is the effect of climate change on sea-surface temperature and food supply.