The Royal Penguin inhabits the waters surrounding Antarctica. Royal penguins look very much like Macaroni Penguins, but have a white face and chin instead of the Macaronis’ black visage. Royal penguins are found in the southern hemisphere near the Macquarie and Campbell Islands to the south of New Zealand.
There is some controversy over whether Royal penguins are a sub-species of Macaroni penguins as both have black and yellow crests on their head.
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. One way to spot the difference is that Macaroni penguins have black chins and Royal penguins have white chins.
Royal Penguin Characteristics
Royal penguins have an orange, yellow and black crest that sticks out on the penguins head with white/grey throats and black backs.
Royal Penguin Diet
Royal penguins eat crustaceans (mostly krill), fish and squid caught by pursuit-diving normally at depths of 50 to 150 feet. Dives rarely exceed two minutes in duration. Like all penguins, they are excellent swimmers, using their webbed feet, powerful flippers and streamlined bodies to ‘fly’ through the water at speeds approaching 20 miles per hour.
Royal Penguin Behaviour
Royal penguins form long-lasting bonds and nest in large and dense colonies. Royal penguins have a highly synchronized breeding cycle beginning when the males arrive in late September to claim nest sites.
Royal Penguin Reproduction
The males return in the first week of October to reclaim their former nest site and are joined by the female a week later. They usually breed for the first time at the age of five. Intruders are kept at pecking range and waving of wings is an indication to the intruder they are too close. Their nests consist of shallow depressions in the sand or grass and are lined with stones and grass.
Two eggs are commonly laid but usually only one chick is reared. Incubation lasts for 35 days and is done in 12 day shifts by both parents. Once hatched the male guards the chick for 10 – 20 days whilst the female feeds the chick daily. The chicks will then join a creche and will be fed every 2 – 3 days. At 65 days the juvenile is ready to go to sea.
Royal Penguin Predators
In the wild, Royal penguin predators include Leopard seals, skuas, giant petrels and Wekas.
Royal Penguin Conservation
Royal penguins are classified as Vulnerable by the 2000 Red List of Threatened Species. They are only found on one island group so a natural or human disaster could greatly reduce their numbers. At present there is a total of 850,000 pairs.