Like the Emperor penguin, the King penguin has difficulties in raising its larger chicks because of the harsh conditions in which these already-large animals live. The severe climate means food is scarce for eight or nine months of the year.
The King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) nests on the islands bordering the Antarctic and all over the subantarctic area free from ice. Here the weather is relatively mild and winter temperatures are of an oceanic type.
Egg laying takes place in spring and summer and the chicks are kept in the colony until the following spring. An abundance of plankton in spring means a good supply of food for the penguins. They catch fish and cephalopods in surface waters and can therefore fee their young abundantly. Each parent tends a single egg which is incubated beneath the abdominal fold of skin and balanced on the feet so as to protect it from the ground below. When exchanging the egg, the parents perform the maneuver with such dexterity that it never comes into contact with soil or snow. Nevertheless, not all the chicks manage to survive the rigors of the southern winter and the inevitable scarcity of food in the nesting colonies. Adults are subject to molting. Couples are able to raise two chicks in three consecutive years.