The animals on the cover of Programming Collective Intelligence are King penguins
(Aptenodytes patagonicus). Although named for the Patagonia region, King Penguins
no longer breed in South America; the last colony there was wiped out by 19thcentury
sealers. Today, these penguins are found on sub-Antarctic islands such as
Prince Edward, Crozet, Macquarie, and Falkland Islands. They live on beaches and
flat glacial lands near the sea. King penguins are extremely social birds; they breed in
colonies of as many as 10,000 and raise their young in crèches.
Standing 30 inches tall and weighing up to 30 pounds, the King is one of the largest
types of penguin—second only to its close relative the Emperor penguin. Apart from
size, the major identifying feature of the King penguin is the bright orange patches on
its head that extend down to its silvery breast plumage. These penguins have a sleek
body frame and can run on land, instead of hopping like Emperor penguins. They are
well adapted to the sea, eating a diet of fish and squid, and can dive down 700 feet,
far deeper than most other penguins go. Because males and females are similar in size
and appearance, they are distinguished by behavioral clues such as mating rituals.
King penguins do not build nests; instead, they tuck their single egg under their
bellies and rest it on their feet. No other bird has a longer breeding cycle than these
penguins, who breed twice every three years and fledge a single chick. The chicks are
round, brown, and so fluffy that early explorers thought they were an entirely
different species of penguin, calling them “woolly penguins.” With a world population
of two million breeding pairs, King penguins are not a threatened species, and
the World Conservation Union has assigned them to the Least Concern category.