Even though the king and emperor penguin share much in common and are very close, they are different. These beautiful creatures have variations, including ear patches, size, and weight. In this article, we look at how they differ and how you can tell them apart.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Physical characteristics

Unless you are very keen and know something about penguins, it can be tricky to tell the physical differences between the king and emperor penguins. However, their major difference lies in their patches’ colour and shape.

For instance, you can tell an emperor penguin by its black head, throat, and chin. It also has some yellow patches on the sides of its head. On the other hand, a king penguin has a similar head, throat, and chin, but its head’s sides are vivid orange. Its patches are tear-shaped and can extend to the upper chest region.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Habitat and Distribution

Both king penguins and emperor penguins thrive on beaches and rocky shores. However, you will find more emperor penguins in Antarctica. On their end, king penguins prefer South American regions and the sub-Antarctic island groups.

Of all the penguin species, king penguins are the majority in regions besides Antarctica.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Social Structure

Emperor penguins’ social hierarchy depends on how big and powerful a male is. This is especially important during the mating and breeding season, as the males will fight for the females. Whoever wins earns the right to form the social hierarchy.

On the contrary, King penguins do not have any dominant figure. Instead, they adopt an egalitarian social structure that allows them to create large colonies. This way, they get “communal warmth”, which is crucial for survival in their colder habitats.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Survival Adaptations

Feet feathering is one of the king and emperor penguins’ most different survival adaptations. Emperor penguins have more feathers on their feet. Again, this relates to survival in the cold regions they mainly inhabit.

Even though they both have long and narrow beaks, an emperor’s is longer than the king’s, which is more curved than the former’s.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Feeding Habits

Emperor penguins majorly chase after and feed on fish and other marine animals. They can comfortably hunt in the sea or break the ice to catch prey. These animals are also great divers. They can go as deep as their mark can. However, this largely depends on the season and feeding period.

Like emperor penguins, king penguins are largely myctophids (they feed on fish). However, king penguins are more willing to travel long distances for food than emperor penguins.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Size

Emperor penguins are generally bigger than king penguins. A fully grown emperor can clock up to 47 inches and weigh about 100 pounds. On the contrary, a king penguin’s maximum height is about 35 inches and can only weigh as much as 35 pounds.

The measurements above make you think these species aren’t as big, but they are – more than they look.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Breeding and Reproductive Patterns

Not just against the emperor penguins, the king penguin has the most prolonged breeding cycle of all penguin species. They can take up to 16 months, where female king penguins are expected to produce at least a chick in the alternate breeding seasons.

On the contrary, the breeding season for emperor penguins is between June and August. A period considered to be winter in the Antarctic regions. At this time, there are usually strong winds, and temperatures can be as low as -60 degrees Celsius.

It is not clear why emperor penguins choose to breed when the environment is the harshest.

King Penguin Vs Emperor Penguin: Similarities

The reason why most people confuse king penguins and emperor penguins is because of their striking similarities. The major ones include:

  • Their lifespan is almost similar (20 years)
  • They are the largest penguin species
  • They don’t molt or shed feathers like most birds
  • Both rely on their flippers to move on water

The Final Verdict

Undoubtedly, the king and emperor penguin have a striking resemblance. You must be extremely keen to notice their differences, from their size to their feathers and physical adaptations. However tiny as they may be, there are variations between the two.

You can find these in their breeding patterns, the colors on their head, the size, and the feathers on their feet.

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