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First albatross chick for 2018 hatches

First albatross chick for 2018 hatches

The first chick of the 2017/18 breeding season for the Royal Albatross Colony at Pukekura was welcomed today heralding the start of hatching time and the culmination of around 80 days of waiting for parents and wellwishers.

Otago Peninsula Trust CEO Robyn McDonald says “The chicks are eagerly awaited by all our team who love the birds and sharing with visitors the exhilaration of seeing awesome albatross. This is a wonderful time to visit the colony as there are several nests within view of our viewing observatory on the nature reserve. This is a very special year for the colony as its 80 years since the first chick fledged from the colony in September 1938”

Parents of the first chick are OK (Orange/Black, male, 20yrs) and KGK (Black/Green/Black, female 21yrs)

Credit Mike Hitchcock (DoC)

This year 32 nests are dotted around the nature reserve, most of these nests are fertile, some nests have been provided with dummy egg to give the parents practice at nesting and to provide a back-up if a nest fails.

Manager of Operations Taiaroa Head, Hoani Langsbury says “The overcast and dull weather is perfect for nest hatching currently as Summer heat during January and February can be a challenge for the nesting adults and young chicks as overheating and fly strike can cause mortality. DOC Rangers work longer hours over this crucial time to ensure the best chances for successful hatching. Fly strike, where flies lay live maggots on hatching eggs or chicks, heat stress and infections are major risks and constant monitoring is essential. Other risks include predators, fire, winds, drones and plastic fed to them by their parents, this season there has also been minimal wind resulting in some long delays for parents returning”.

The new Royalcam live webcam albatross chick is due to hatch around any day this week. The chick’s famous parents are YWK and KGY who spent 2016 as the first international stars watched 24/7 be devoted fans as they raised “Moana” the first worldwide celebrity albatross chick.

Hoani adds “Fans have been avidly watching the Royalcam couple and waiting for the new chick to hatch. The Royalcam has now been going for two years and has raised huge awareness for albatross here at the world’s only mainland Royal Albatross colony. It’s an amazing tool for education and conservation.”

145 albatross have been spotted this season since September with 3 birds returning for the first time. The 3 newly returning birds will not have touched land for 4-5 years until their return to Pukekura/Taiaroa Head for breeding. This season they are seen displaying adolescent behaviours including partying, courting and display flying with the aim of finding a mate. “Typical teenagers looking for love” quips Hoani.

A “Happy Birthday” flag will fly from the Dunedin City Council’s Mayoral Flagpole to celebrate the successful hatching of a city icon.

Albatross at Pukekura
The 2016/17 season saw 23 chicks fledged. The colony is home to around 250 albatross who, once mature, breed every two years. Overall there have been more than 650 chicks fledged from Pukekura since the first chick was successfully reared in 1938. 2018 sees the 80th anniversary of this milestone.
Pukekura albatrosses are unique in that their colony is the only place in the world where a mainland breeding colony can be viewed:
• Northern Royal Albatross is a taonga species, valued and admired by New Zealanders and international visitors
• Viewing iconic royal albatrosses at Pukekura contributes to the $100 million eco-tourism in Dunedin.
• Otago Peninsula Trust (est 1967), Dunedin’s pioneering ecotourism operator, began albatross tours in 1972 at the Royal Albatross Centre which now hosts over 100,000 visitors each year.
• Northern Royal Albatross are one of the world’s largest seabirds, with a wingspan of up to three metres. One of the longest living birds in the world, regularly living into their 40s. Average lifespan is 25
• Albatross spend 80% of their life at sea, returning only to land to breed.
• Eggs laid October/November. Incubation time 75-86 days (average 79) Chicks raised Jan/Feb to Aug/Sept/Oct
• Albatross top speed is around 110kph
• Northern Royal Albatross Body Length 1.2metres approx, Weight 6-8 kilograms
• Birds are ‘named’ by their bands read top to bottom on their legs. Eg YWK is Yellow, White, Black. (B is blue).

Fast Facts:
Otago Peninsula Trust was formed in 1967 and was New Zealand’s first Private Charitable Trust. The Trust’s mission is “To preserve and enhance Otago Peninsula”.
To raise funds for conservation and education the Trust oversees the business operations and marketing of:
• The Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head which hosts over 100,000 visitors annually
• Historic Fort Taiaroa, underground fort with restored 1889 disappearing gun
• Fletcher House, Edwardian villa built in 1909 by Sir James Fletcher (management contract)
• Pukekura Blue Penguins, offering evening penguin viewing tours at Taiaroa Head (joint venture)
• Glenfalloch Woodland Gardens including Green Bike hire.
* Glenfalloch Restaurants; Weddings, functions and conferences. Daytime & evening dining.

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