Royal Penguin – Eudyptes schlegeli

Eudyptes Genus – Crested penguins
Height: 25-27 in.
Weight: 9-18.0 lb.
No subspecies.
Life expectancy in the wild: 12 years.
Approximated Population: 2.1 Million
Population tendency: Stable
IUCN Conservation Status: NT

Appearance

The colorful crest of this species makes it visually attractive and one of the most beautiful. These penguins have a short and thick beak that is orange and have a pink, calloused area on both sides of its base. Around the beak, forehead and above the eyes, they have some yellow feathers that clearly contrast. Their crest has orange, yellow and black feathers that spread from the forehead to the back of the head. Although their plume is similar to the Macaroni’s they are easily recognizable because the have white face while the Macaroni’s is black.

From the face area to the edge of their legs they have white plumage while the back is all black. The legs are light pink, and their claws are beige.

Information about royal penguin.

Royal Penguin – Eudyptes schlegeli / Photo by M. Murphy.

Where do they live?

Their habitat includes vegetation, soil, mud, and large green areas. Principal colonies are on Macquarie Island, Bishop, and Clerk Islands in Australia. Some lost individuals reach the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands.

Skills and Food

Skilled swimmers, they can reach six mph although usually travel at four mph. Diving is performed during the day from 7:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs.

Royal penguins are migratory birds that besides the breeding season they leave the colonies and move away to some regions of the ocean.

Their diet is based 50% on krill, but they complement it with lantern fish and squid. The entire population of Royal penguins consumes up to 90 million prey during a year according to rough calculations. Some colonies located on Macquarie Island, eat different food according to the availability of their habitat.

Molting

The pre-molt trip made to get as much food as possible, gets them the energy needed to stand the molting process. This trip lasts five weeks and can help them increase their weight up to 6.6 pounds. Finally, they wait patiently for a month on land while the change from old to new feathers completes.

Characteristics of Royal penguin.

Royal penguin colony. / Photo by M. Murphy.

Reproduction

Sexual maturity: Over a year.
Incubation period: 30 to 40 days.
Normal clutch: Two eggs.

They are monogamous and highly synchronized in the reproductive stage.

Males arrive before to the colonies and build nests with rocks and some vegetation. Females arrive in early October and by the end of that month lay two eggs, but only one of them survives.

The success rate for the survival of the eggs is the lowest of all penguin species and predation decrease the odds even more.

The second egg is laid four to six days after the first one and usually, the chick hatching from the second egg is the one that successfully grows.

Once born, the hatchling is protected and fed by both parents. After 70 days, it can leave the nest and start his independent life.

Threats

Rats and skuas are the main predators of chicks and eggs.

However, human activity is their principal threat as the disturbance caused by tourists, and people reduces, even more, their chances of survival. Marine pollution, especially plastics, kills a large number of penguins each year.

Diseases and the increasing effects of climate change on the food supply are major concerns for the survival of this species especially because they could get even worse with time.

Royal penguin range map

Royal penguin range map.

 

 

Sources:
Salomon, David. Penguin-pedia, photographs and facts from one man’s search for the penguins pf the world. Brown Books. 2011.

Garcia Borboroglu, Pablo. Penguins: Natural History and Conservation. University of Washington Press, 2015.

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/wildlife/animals/penguins/royal-penguins

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_penguin

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22697797/0

BioExpedition Publishing © 2017.