|The Kings of South Georgia|
|Upon leaving the Antarctic Peninsula, I felt sad because I knew that I might never again visit this vast and icy continent. Little did I know that South (continued below)|
|"Young King in a Fashionable Coat"
The young King Penguins look entirely different from their elegant parents.
|"Portrait of a King"
King Penguins stand tall and relatively thin; in the sea they are fast swimmers.
|Georgia Island would be the wildlife adventure of my life. After several Zodiac landings to check out the Antarctic Fur Seals and Macaroni Penguins, we sailed to Royal Bay. There we went ashore for the best wildlife watching day imaginable.
First we walked a gauntlet of Antarctic Fur Seals who eyed us warily; then we ventured past a harem of enormous Southern Elephant Seals who were bellowing and sparring. One giant seal floated in a pond of the strangest natural green color I've ever seen - all the while making rude noises and blowing bubbles into the hideous water.
But the real stars of the show here were the King Penguins - thousands upon tens of thousands of them gathered in a huge colony. And when I walked up a steep hill to look down onto the next beach, I saw a similar scene with tens of thousands more. I had never seen so many creatures gathered together in an exhuberant display of fecundity.
We stayed about four hours, during which I shot roll after roll after roll of film trying to capture as much as I could of this glorious scene.
King Penguins don't build nests, but gather together in tight, regularly spaced colonies to raise their young. The young take a long time to raise, taking over a year to fledge. Therefore the adults generally breed every other year. The young are brown and furry, looking so different from the elegant adults that one early researcher thought they were a different species that he named "Hairy Penguins." The young of this colony huddled closely together in a huge crèche along a pond, where they awaited the return of the parents and food. One of the wonders of nature is that the young can recognize the returning parents by the quavering, trumpet-like call.
The food that King Penguins bring back to the young consists largely of squid and lantern fish - quite different from the krill diet of many penguins. With their streamlined shaped, Kings are capable swimmers that are adept at pursuing their prey underwater. Plus they can dive to 800 or so feet under the surface.
With so many King Penguins so close together, the challenge was to capture some of the wonderful behavior on film and video. One of my colleagues got a wonderful video sequence of several female Kings having a "flipper fight," which was much like a human boxing match or slapfight. They were sparring over the rights to lure a particularly attractive male. I photographed pairs of Kings crossing bills and raising their heads into the sky and calling together. It was unforgettable.
This was an absolutely perfect day for the Antarctic, with temperatures of about 50 degrees Farenheit and brilliant sunshine. It was among the best days of my life - a day that, at the time, I hoped would never end.
|"King Penguin Courtship"
The Kings will extend their necks and call loudly, often in unison.
|"Dressed for the Antarctic Winter"
The hairy-looking feathers help keep the young warm while parents are fishing.
|"Kings Crossing Swords"
King Penguin pairs share in bill touching and calling - behaviors that strengthen their pair bond (as a scientist would say it - most of us would call it love).
|The words and pictures on this website are copyrighted: © 2005 Lee Rentz Photography. The photographs may be used for school projects at no cost, but all other uses must have the photographer's written permission.|
Penguin Photographs by Lee Rentz
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