Can I see King Penguins from Ushuaia?

The king penguin ranks as the second largest among the 18 penguin species globally, weighing approximately 12 to 16 kg and measuring around 90 cm. Pelagic in nature, they only come ashore during the breeding season. Sexual maturity is reached between 3 to 6 years, with a reproductive cycle lasting around 14 to 15 months, covering courtship to the end of breeding. Breeding occurs every two to three years, with a single egg being laid and both parents sharing incubation duties atop their legs.

This migratory avian species traverses vast distances in search of sustenance, ranging from their breeding grounds in sub-Antarctic islands like the Malvinas and States’ islands to the Antarctic circumpolar waters. Since 2010, a small colony has formed in Bahía Inutil, located on the Chilean side of Isla Grande. Though historically infrequent, sightings of these majestic birds from Cabo de Hornos and Tierra del Fuego are becoming more common. Outside the breeding season, they disperse throughout the southern circumpolar zone and the Argentine sea, occasionally reaching as far north as Buenos Aires.

Centuries ago, the king penguin coexisted with indigenous peoples inhabiting Tierra del Fuego, as evidenced by skeletal remains discovered in Selk’nam occupation sites. Tragically, in the latter half of the 19th century, their colonies were decimated for oil and eggs, resulting in the extinction of some breeding sites. Thankfully, current populations are experiencing a resurgence.

The king penguin, the second largest of the 18 penguin species globally, sporadically visits Martillo Island in Ushuaia.

King Penguins in Ushuaia

King Penguins in Ushuaia: Location and General Information

The King Penguin is found across the circumpolar regions of the Antarctic continent, particularly where the westerly winds prevail. Its breeding grounds include Useless Bay on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego in Chile, as well as islands near South America (such as the Malvinas and South Georgia), Africa (Islas Prince Edward and Crozet Islands), and Oceania (Kerguelen Islands and Macquarie Island).

Its upper chest, around the throat area, exhibits a yellowish-orange hue, outlined by a black band, while its back is gray with a downy texture extending to the tail. The belly presents a whitish coloration, while its head is black and adorned with a long, pointed beak, partially colored orange. Its legs are specially adapted for aquatic locomotion.

Young King Penguins are enveloped in a soft, brown down resembling hair. They can live up to twenty years in their natural habitat. Their diet comprises krill, small fish, and other marine organisms.

So, can I see King Penguins in Ushuaia?

Yes, you can see King Penguins in Ushuaia, although they are not native to the area. Martillo Island, located near Ushuaia, is home to a colony of King Penguins. Tours to Martillo Island are available from Ushuaia, allowing visitors to observe these majestic birds in their natural habitat. The colony on Martillo Island is part of a research station and conservation effort, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to see King Penguins up close while supporting their conservation. However, it’s essential to note that Martillo Island is a protected area, and access is typically restricted to guided tours to minimize disturbance to the penguins and their habitat.


Book the Beagle Channel Navigation to see Penguins and visit Harberton Ranch

Click on the image below and book wonderful boat navigation from Ushuaia to enjoy the colony of penguins in Martillo Island and a typical ranch in Estancia Harberton!


Picture of Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in travel market, as Sales & Marketing Manager in RipioTurismo, Marketing Manager in Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

Table of Contents