King penguin

Aptenodytes patagonicus

King penguins Sir Nils Olav and Alfie walking together in enclosure facing camera Image: ALLIE MCGREGOR 2024



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We have a bachelor group of king penguins here at Edinburgh Zoo, including the world's only knighted penguin – Major General Sir Nils Olav!

King penguins were one of the very first species at the zoo and in 1919 we welcomed our first chick, making us the first zoo in the world to successfully breed the species. Because of this long and wonderful history, our logo and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s crest feature a king penguin.




IUCN August 2018







Fact file

  • King penguins are the second largest penguin species (emperor penguins are the largest)

  • They can dive to amazing depths to hunt their prey – sometimes up to 300 metres!

  • King penguins lay only one egg and incubate it on top of their feet, both the male and female will share incubation duties and take care of the chick when it hatches

Keep up with our penguins

You may spot Kevin, our naughtiest penguin, who has a lifetime ban from the penguin parade for pecking at our visitors! Keep an eye out for Snowflake, our leucistic gentoo, easily identifiable by his rare pale white plumage. And don't forget Major General Sir Nils Olav, mascot of the Norwegian King's Guard and the world's highest ranking penguin!

Watch our penguin colony live
Gentoo penguin Muffin and chick on nest IMAGE: Amy Middleton 2022
King penguins, Sir Nils Olav, Alfie and Bow walking towards camera in a line on white concrete Image: ALLIE MCGREGOR 2024

How we're helping

Like all the animals in our care our king penguins are amazing ambassadors for their relatives in the wild and help hundreds of thousands of people connect with nature every year. They encourage visitors to learn about the threats facing wildlife and the action they can take to help create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved.

As a wildlife conservation charity, we care for the animals here at the zoo and work to protect species at risk around the world. From providing expertise in genetics and veterinary health, to protecting wild places with local conservation partners, and even restoring threatened species to the wild, we are active where we are needed most.

Find out more about RZSS conservation