King penguin: a long way from home

We’ll never know what influenced a king penguin to swim thousands of kilometers off course to arrive here at Buffels Bay, on the Cape Peninsula.  Spotted by surfski paddlers on Wednesday, when this regal creature waddled up the beach it was captured on video by Jasper Mocke.  It’s arrival created a flurry of excitement as the news got out on social media and birdwatchers flocked to view this unusual visitor.

Almost a meter in height and about 12.5 kgs in weight,  it’s elegant markings and dignified character had the crowds enraptured.  Inhabiting the sub-Antarctic regions, there is concern that it could be suffering adversely from the heat.  A veterinarian was called in to examine the bird, which was proclaimed to be in good health.  They breed on just a handful of ice-free islands in the Southern Ocean and presently though they are not endangered, climate change is affecting the ocean currents and impacting their prey resulting in the species having to swim further to reach the nutrient-rich stretches of ocean.

Our ‘fellow’ has a magnificent puffed-up satin white chest and what appeared to be quite a relaxed attitude, sitting back on it’s heels and propped up by a bony tail (in a position referred to as the tripod).  Another reason for adopting the raised feet position, could be a thermoregulating adaptation to avoid the transfer of heat from the tarred surface.

Showing off the stiff tail feathers, which when leaning backwards prevents the penguin from falling over.

The underside of the webbed-feet are textured for gripping surfaces and the long nails would be useful for added stability.  King penguins adopt the same brooding strategy as Emperor penguins by not building nests, instead using their feet and a folded brooding pouch to hatch eggs.

The elegant throat lines and yellow head patches look duller in colour compared to some of the species which have a more defined orange hue.  Still, this is one handsome creature.

Shot using a telephoto lens (70-200mm plus a x2 teleconverter) and a cropped view to show up the elegant details of the throat and head lines.

Though there were park rangers on hand to keep the crowds back, not everybody adhered to the request not to get too close.  A wise decision was made to move the bird to a more secluded beach so it could be kept out of harm’s way until it returns to the sea.  With the fate of so many marine creatures at risk, we can only hope that this magnificent creature finds its way home.

9 thoughts on “King penguin: a long way from home

  1. What a privilege to be able to see this bird – thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures too. I hope the ‘secluded beach’ really is so in that the penguin can be left in peace.

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