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First albatross chick for 2019 hatches

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The first chicks of the 2018/19 breeding season for the Royal Albatross Colony at Pukekura were welcomed today with three newly hatched chicks seen by DOC Rangers. In a Dunedin tradition a "Happy Birthday" flag flys from the Dunedin City Council’s Mayoral Flagpole to celebrate the beginning of an exciting time for the city.

DOC Ranger Jim Watts says ‘A record 51 eggs were laid, and while not all were viable, we are hopeful a high number will hatch successfully this season’.

Otago Peninsula Trust Ecotourism Manager, Hoani Langsbury says "This is a wonderful time to visit the colony as there are several nests within view of our exclusive observatory on the nature reserve. The gorgeous fluffy chicks are eagerly awaited by all our team who love the birds and enjoy sharing with visitors the exhilaration of seeing awesome albatross. Ecotourism contributes well over $100 million to the Dunedin economy and our famous royals are a unique attraction for Dunedin".

Hoani adds "Fans have been avidly watching the internationally famous Royalcam couple LGL and LGK waiting for the new chick to hatch which we expect around the 24th January. Watchers have also been entertained by non-breeding albatross busy looking for partners, courting and partying. DOC’s Royalcam has made a huge difference to people’s engagement with albatross and the support we are able to give DOC".

"The generosity of visitors to the colony and donations from a Givealittle page set up by the Otago Peninsula Trust will directly benefit the albatross conservation effort at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. Last year we replaced the irrigation system used to cool the albatrosses on hot, dry days by upgrading the piping to endure the increasingly extreme weather conditions", says Jim Watts.

Last year extreme weather conditions resulted in a higher than usual number of failed nests and just 13 chicks fledged. Summer heat 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 their eggs and hatch maggots on hatching albatross eggs or chicks, heat stress and infections are major risks and constant monitoring is essential.

Otago Peninsula Trust General Manager Robyn McDonald says "We’re concerned about increasingly hot summers and the effect it has on albatross chicks. Otago Peninsula Trust helps with care for the albatross on very hot days by providing water for the nest irrigation system. All our water is trucked in, which costs us around $40,000 each year. We raise funds for water and support to ensure we are able to assist the Department of Conservation to keep albatross and chicks cool on blistering hot days. Trust staff volunteer up to 80 hours through the year to help DOC Rangers with albatross care including weighing, supplementary feeding and pest control".

149 albatross have been spotted this season since September with 6 birds returning for the first time since fledging 4-10 years ago. Many unsuccessful 17/18 parents have returned to try again. Breeding usually takes place on a two-year cycle, however birds whose nests fail sometimes return the following season to breed again and this is the reason for this year’s increased nest and egg numbers. 


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