Penguin Species Series #13 - The Royal Penguin


Royal Penguin, Eudyptes schegeli


Coolest Fact: The royal penguin is the largest of the crested penguins (about 25 – 29 inches).


Where It’s Found: The royal penguin is endemic to—is found only on—Macquarie Island.


Crucial Facts:

· IUCN Status: Near Threatened.

· Population: Estimated at 850,000 pairs. The species is thought to be stable, but there are no studies since the 1980s.

· Mating: Mostly monogamous.

· Nesting: Clutch consists of two eggs, with the second egg as the one that will survive.

· Annual Cycle: Winter at sea; arrive at colonies in October-November; chicks fledge in February.

· Life span: 15 to 20 years.

· Food: Small fish (lanternfish) and krill.

· Threats: Climate change and fisheries, though threats for this species are not well documented.


Our First Sighting: December 4, 2014

Macquarie Island, Australia


Our Story:

The royal penguin may be Susan’s favorite species for one incredible reason. This may be the friendliest species of penguin! They are large penguins, over two feet tall, with yellow-orange crests that start on their foreheads. They look like macaroni penguins, except for their white cheeks. You can only see them Macquarie Island, half-way between Australia and Antarctica.


At Sandy Bay, we climbed out of the Zodiacs on the beach to a waiting crowd of royal penguins. They had come to greet us, dozens of them. They crowded close, leaning forward, peering at us. It was wonderful. Several looked directly into the camera, beaks against glass.


As we ambled down the black sand beach, they followed us—our royal entourage. When we sat on the beach, dozens gathered around us, preening. Individuals would take turns approaching, inspecting us closely. At one point, I photographed royal penguins around us. As I lay on my stomach, a royal penguin hopped onto my rubber boots and stood there for a long time. Their delightful combination of curiosity and friendliness make royal penguins unforgettable.


This new penguin series includes stories, information, and photos not yet published. Read about our quest to see all 18 of the world’s penguin species in my book “Every Penguin in the World.”

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