Kings

Volunteer Point is mainly known for its King Penguin population. Kings are the largest penguins in the Falklands and the second largest in the world; adults are normally three feet tall. They are not migratory and the Falklands lie at the northern perimeter of their range.

There was still daylight left when we first arrived at Volunteer Point, so we walked down to the breeding area as it drizzled.

I was able to position myself right next to this adult male while he flapped his wings and then stretched to his full height, a behavior associated with courtship. Maybe it was my orange parka that made him think I was worth impressing.

To get an idea of the size of this colony, consider that in the first photo in this post, I was looking toward one end of the rainbow (to the northeast) and in the photo, below, I had turned the camera to look at the other end (toward the southeast), with King Penguins filling the entire area between the two photos.

The sun was starting to go down that first night, so we headed back to the house for dinner and interesting conversation with Gavin about his reporting adventures in Afghanistan, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, his area of expertise. In the morning, Gavin was called by BBC in London and told to go back into Stanley to interview some Falkland Islanders about their reaction to the election that night of an Argentinian Pope.

Gavin’s departure left all of Volunteer Point to just us, so we returned to the penguins Thursday morning, finding this pair on the beach on our way to the main colony. They had returned from feeding at sea. We were amazed to learn that King Penguins can dive nearly 1,000 feet to feed!

After spending about an hour on the beach, we returned to where we had been the day before to observe the King chicks and their interaction with the adults.

The chicks are all sort of herded into a central area by the adults where they are fed and protected. The breeding period lasts for several weeks, so there were chicks of all shapes and sizes. There were even some unhatched eggs; you can see one in this photo:

After the female lays her solitary egg, she and the male alternate holding the egg on their feet, off the ground, until it hatches. There’s an adult with an egg on its feet on the left in this photo; near the center of the photo, you can also see a new-born with its head and half its body underneath its parent.

Around noon, we returned to the house for lunch and to warm up, then in the late afternoon we made our way back to the Kings where I was intrigued by this huge chick (foreground):

He seemed curious about me, too, and he started to waddle over to me, but one of the adult Kings (perhaps a parent) intervened, clearly attempting to scare me away.

The King Penguins were generally comfortable around us and rarely moved as we walked among them. Perhaps, because of their size they did not feel threatened; in fact, they were the only species that was the least bit aggressive.

And, I, for one, was not going to test the sharpness of their beaks.

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