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Spring Bells ring to welcome Royals back to Dunedin


The first Royal Albatross to return for the Spring breeding season has arrived at Taiaroa Head and will set Dunedin bells ringing at 1pm today Monday 26th September.

Dunedin has a long tradition of church bells ringing to celebrate the return of the Royal Albatross and herald the start of Spring.

Otago Peninsula Trust Marketing Manager, Sophie Barker says “This year a concerted effort has been made to get more churches, schools and buildings ringing their bells, welcoming the albatross and creating a clamourous beginning to Spring. A “Welcome back” flag will be flying outside the Mayors’ office and many albatross fans are setting bell chimes on their mobile phones to ring at 1pm. Dunedin hosts the world’s only mainland Royal Albatross Breeding colony which is a source of great pride and a symbol of the city – the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand. Moana the Royalcam albatross chick created a worldwide following with over 600,000 views from more than 100 countries – her fans are all keen to get involved. There’s a lot of sadness at Moana’s departure; we are hoping that celebrating the return of the albatross and the anticipation of a new breeding season will be good therapy.”

The first bird back this season is Red / Orange / Blue – identified by his leg bands; ROB has often been the first bird of the season. ROB hatched in 1984 making him 33 in January 2017. He first bred in 1991 and has had 4 partners all of whom have died. He last bred with his fourth partner in 2012/13 season, where they successfully fledged a chick. He was out at sea all of 2013/14 season and has been back at Taiaroa Head for the last two seasons 2014/15 & 2015/16 sitting at his nest site. In the 2015/16 season he was seen on 26 separate days from October to December by himself, presumably still waiting on his last partner to arrive; he hasn’t been displaying with other birds.

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The 2015/16 breeding season has been the second most successful season on record, with 26 chicks raised,19 have fledged so far. The colony is home to around 250 albatross who, once mature, breed every two years. 125 albatross returned in 2015, seven were returning fledglings. There were 30 nests with eggs and 28 chicks hatched.

The arrival of the adolescent and adult birds coincides with the departure of the fledgling chicks. Fledgling albatross, once they take their first flight, will not touch land for over five years until they return to Taiaroa Head for breeding.

DoC Ranger Lyndon Perriman says “It’s always a very exciting time for us to see which birds have returned. Having spent the last 12 months at sea, it is great to see which birds have survived and see established pairs back together again. After the arrival of the adult breeding birds, we keep a look out for adolescent birds, some of which will be returning to Taiaroa Head/Pukekura for the first time since leaving year 4-10 years ago”.

Royal Albatross Centre Manager Hoani Langsbury says “This is a wonderful time to visit the colony as the returning albatross arrive back. The viewing is great as the birds renew their pair bonds with grooming and choosing a place to nest. Usually the male albatross arrive first, as it is their job to make the nest before their partner returns. We still have quite a number of chicks on view who are entertaining visitors with their wing exercises as they get ready to fledge. The adolescents will be in party mode, doing what teenagers do, impressing prospective mates, building pair bonds and showing off; this leads to impressive flying displays and ground parties (gamming).”

Hoani adds “We’d like to thanks all the churches, bellringers and people who are joining in our Spring celebration. We really appreciate the effort they’re giving to make today a joyous occasion”.

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