What Do King Penguins Eat?

King penguins are majestic birds, but have you ever thought what do king penguins eat? As carnivores, king penguins primarily feed on small fish such as krill, squid, and lanternfish. Their dietary requirements are slightly different compared to other species of penguins.

The difference in the diet helps the penguins to survive by eating other kinds of fish in areas with growing penguin population. As the second largest penguin in size, only after emperor penguin, they need to eat a lot of fish to meet the energy demands of their body. King penguins measure around 70-100 cm and weigh anywhere from 11-16 kg.

During the egg-hatching season, king penguins need to take care of their diet as they have to go hungry for long periods of time. At any time, one parent has to be there with the chicks and the other parent has to find food for the chicks as well.

King Penguins Eat Fish As Their Primary Food

King Penguins Eat Fish As Their Primary Food

An increase in fish consumption can often result in a lack of fish in the areas where penguins build their nests. King penguins have been known to dive down to 100 meters and over 200 meters to look for fish. This is close to the deepest dives made by Emperor penguin that is larger than king penguins. As skilled hunters, king penguins can hunt for fish underwater for close to ten minutes and as winter comes, their feeding times also increase.

The primary diet of king penguins is fish and squid, but when the supply of squid is low, they can easily move on to other fish available in the sea. Let’s take a quick look at the diet of king penguins.

  • For up to 80% of their diet, king penguins eat fish and they mostly prefer Lanternfish as their food. Catching fish is easier for penguins as they can find most types of fish closer to the surface.
  • King penguins also eat cephalopods such as the hooked squid and the sevenstar flying squid. To catch squid or other cephalopods, penguins have to dive deeper into the ocean.
King Penguins Eat Fish As Their Primary Food

King Penguins Eat Fish As Their Primary Food

  • As the water in the Antarctic region is salty, it is unfit for consumption. But penguins have strong stomachs and they have adapted to drinking salt water with ease. Penguins can separate salt from the water in their stomach to get sustenance.
  • Penguins have also been known to swallow stones and pebbles because they need the stones to digest the fish in their stomach. As penguins don’t have teeth, they swallow fish whole and by swallowing stones, they can make sure fish gets ground up in their stomach for easy digestion.


So, if someone asks you what do king penguins eat, you can now answer them with ease. King Penguins will eat anything from fish and krill to cephalopods like squid. On occasion, you might also find penguins eating small pebbles and stones as these help them in digesting the fish that they eat.

As carnivores, the primary diet of king penguins includes fish which can make up from 80-100% of their diet. Lanternfish is the favorite food of king penguins and they prefer to eat this fish over any other kind of fish or sea animals. King penguins can also drink the salty sea water in the Antarctic region as their stomach can separate the salt from the water.

Do you have any questions about what king penguins eat? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.





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I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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