You read it first in this week’s The Factory in Guide magazine.

The eyes have it  To help them see in the dark as deep as 300 meters (984 feet) under water, the pupils of a king penguin’s eyes expand an incredible 300-fold –

You read it first in this week’s The Factory in Guide magazine.

King penguins are very cool birds! And not just because they live in the southern hemisphere! They live mostly around Antarctica where there is plenty of access to the ocean so they can forage and eat and raise their young. Several islands where you may find them include: Falkland, Prince Edward, South Georgia and South Sandwich, just to name a few. Yes, there is actually an island called South Sandwich, funny sounding, right?! It’s making me hungry!

King penguins are also cool because of their eyes. They have very special eyes. Most birds’ pupils (the black circles in the center of the eyes) constrict, or grow smaller, when in bright sunlight, but can dilate, or grow bigger, when in darkness. But unlike any other bird of which we know, this penguin’s pupils when they constrict are very tiny, square-shaped pinholes, but grow very huge and dark and round when they are dilated. The penguin needs these special eyes to find food when they dive down deep in the oceans. The light only goes so far and then it gets very dark down there, darker than nighttime. So the bigger their pupils get, the better they can see to eat.

In fact, these retinal changes can help them to see up to 300 times better in the dark waters! Amazing, right?! But because they also need to see when they are on land in the bright sunshine, their eyes have to be very changeable. No other bird as far as we know currently has such an adaptive range of vision.

The King penguin is a flightless bird and waddles when they are on land. But instead of wings, they have flippers and are excellent swimmers. They eat fish primarily, but sometimes squid. They will dive and forage to depths of 350 – 1000 feet but must come up for air about every 5-7 minutes. However, not all penguins are this limited with holding their breath. Recent information has revealed that Emperor penguins can dive for up to about 27 minutes! That is a long time without coming up for air!

Some other quick facts about King penguins are that they are black and white but have orange coloring around their ears and beak, and yellowish orange on the throat and chest. They can grow up to a little over 3 feet tall, and they are the 2nd tallest next to the Emperor Penguins. They can weigh up to 35-40 pounds. They usually have one chick per breeding period, and this chick has very fluffy dark brown downy feathering until it molts, sometime after its first year or so.

The chicks are the most vulnerable to other sea birds who like to steal the eggs or the chicks themselves for food. These seabirds include: skua, giant petrels, or the snowy sheathbill. The adults are on the food menu for the leopard and fur seals, as well as the orcas. Of course, habitat loss or change is also against them. In the wild, these beautiful birds can live up to about 25 years.

Well, I hope you enjoyed learning about the King penguin and their cool underwater superpower vision!

The King Penguin

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