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Ring your bells - albatross back for season of love!

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Dunedin’s bells will be ringing tomorrow to celebrate the first northern royal albatross/toroa to return for the 2019/20 breeding season at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. In a long held tradition Dunedin’s churches, schools and public buildings will be pealing their bells across the city at 1pm Tuesday 17th September

Otago Peninsula Trust Marketing Manager, Sophie Barker says "People tell us they cry when they hear the bells! They know the albatross are back and we’re all celebrating. We’ve got more and more people across the city, and the world, ringing their bells, sending us photos and videos. It’s a really wonderful part of Dunedin’s heritage."

"As well as the traditional bells a "Welcome back" flag will fly outside the Mayor’s office and fans are setting bell chimes on their mobile phones to ring at 1pm. Dunedin hosts the world’s only mainland northern royal albatross breeding colony which is a source of great pride and a symbol of the city - the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand. We hope that celebrating the return of the albatross and the anticipation of a new breeding season will be good therapy as we say goodbye to this season’s fledglings, two chick’s have fledged already with 26 left to go."

"This year we are also asking people to spend some time picking up plastic or doing a beach clean on the day. We were all distressed last week to see Karere, the famous Royalcam chick, had regurgitated a bottle cap that her parents had fed her. This is a wake-up call and a reminder that we need to take action to help the birds we love".

First bird back this season is Lime Red Yellow (recorded as LRY), which arrived 15 September. LRY is an 8 year old male who hatched in the 2010/11 season. He’s yet to breed, but is suspected to have been ‘keeping company’ and may be a first time parent this coming season. ‘Keeping company" is an important stage in albatross courting and means LRY may have found a special someone - hopefully she will arrive home safely soon.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Ranger Jim Watts says "We have recently said goodbye to the first chick to fledge from the headland this season, wishing it well for the next 4-10 years at sea. While keeping an eye on who is leaving, we also "welcome back" the first returning bird, LRY for the 2019/20 season. It’s an exciting time of year for the staff at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head as one season comes to an end and the new season kicks off."

Royal Albatross Centre Manager Hoani Langsbury says "This can be a wonderful time to visit the colony. Viewing can be fascinating as albatross renew their pair bonds with grooming and flying displays while also choosing a place to nest. We still have a number of chicks on view who are entertaining visitors with their wing exercises as they get ready to fledge. The adolescents without mates 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)."

The colony is home to over 250 albatross who, once mature, breed every two years. In 2019 the colony celebrates 100 years since the first albatross egg was laid in 1919. 2018/19 is hoped to be a record season if all 28 chicks fledge successfully. 27 is the previous record from 2002.2018/19 season 164 birds returned, 16 first time returners.

2017/18 season. 148 birds returned, 5 first time returners.

2016/17 Season 151 albatross returned, a record 17 returned for the first time. Contact:

Sophie Barker, Marketing Manager, Otago Peninsula Trust | Ph 022 601 2778

Hoani Langsbury, Operations Manager Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula Trust | Ph 03 478 0499 Cell 027 430 6025

Background information

In spring, the chicks will leave Taiaroa Head to spend 4-10 years circumnavigating the Southern Hemisphere.

Northern royal albatross/toroa are an icon of Dunedin with a conservation status of ‘at risk - naturally uncommon’. They are a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu.

With a wingspan of over three metres, northern royal albatrosses are among the largest seabirds in the world.

The Pukekura/Taiaroa Head albatross colony is the only mainland place in the world to view northern royal albatross in their natural habitat.

DOC manages the albatross colony with the support of the Otago Peninsula Trust, Te Poari a Pukekura (Pukekura Co-management Trust) and Dunedin City Council. It has grown from one breeding pair in 1937 to about 65 pairs in 2017.

10,000 seabirds also thrive at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head, including nationally vulnerable and threatened species like red-billed gulls and Otago shags.

You can watch the albatross chick on

Fast Facts:

Otago Peninsula Trust was formed in 1967 and is New Zealand’s first private charitable conservation Trust.

The Trust is a major ecotourism operator, hosting over 200,000 visitors annually to its award winning enterprises:

- The Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head; The world’s only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony - Historic Fort Taiaroa, underground fortifications with world’s only fully restored 1889 Armstrong disappearing gun

- Glenfalloch Woodland Garden. Stunning 1871 historic garden. Seasonal displays. - Glenfalloch Restaurants; Top 10 Dunedin Restaurant. Dining, Weddings, functions and conferences. - Fletcher House, Edwardian villa built in 1909 by Sir James Fletcher (management contract)

- Pukekura Blue Penguins, World’s smallest penguin, evening penguin viewing tours (joint venture)

- Education Programmes: Interactive student focussed LEOTC in natural environments. 50 Stories podcasts:

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