Royal penguins are known scientifically as Eudyptes schlegeli. Like other types of penguins, royals are found only in the southern hemisphere, primarily in the waters and on the islands off the coast of Antarctica. Like other crested penguins, these birds have large yellow feathers above their eyes and on top of their head. Except for the macaroni penguin, the royal penguin is the largest crested penguin. Although they bear a strong resemblance to and were once considered a subspecies of macaroni penguins, royal penguins are now considered to be a separate species.
The royal penguin can typically be found around islands about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica. The bird usually spends most of its time in the water, but the royal penguin can also be found inhabiting rocky beaches and slopes on certain islands, including Macquarie Island and the Campbell Islands. Macquarie Island, however, is the sole breeding and nesting area for these penguins, and thousands of royal penguins can be found on this island during breeding season.
At the start of the breeding season, in September, the male royal penguin will travel to this island to claim a nesting site. He will then begin to build his nest, which is usually a shallow hole either in the sand or a clump of vegetation. These nests are often lined with stones, reeds, or grasses. Roughly two weeks later, the females begin to arrive.
In October, the female royal penguin will usually lay two eggs, although only one of these eggs will actually hatch. The first egg laid will often get pushed out of the nest by one of the parents. Both parents take turns incubating the remaining egg, and a little more than a month later, the fledgling hatches. For about the first three weeks the male royal penguin will guard the new addition, and the female will find food and bring it back to the nest. As the fledgling gets larger, it needs more food, so both parents will leave the nest, and the fledgling will huddle in a large groups with other baby penguins.
Roughly two months later, the baby penguin will be ready to leave the nest after molting and growing his adult feathers. An adult royal penguin looks very much like an adult macaroni penguin. At about 30 inches (76.2 cm) and 13 pounds (6 kg), however, it is slightly smaller than a macaroni penguin. Also, instead of a black face, the royal penguin has a white face.
Like many other penguins, it has a black back and a white chest and belly. Its beak, along with its short legs and webbed feet, are orange. Along its streamlined body are a pair of wings. These flightless birds, however, rarely use them for anything more than a pair of flippers when swimming.