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Royal Cam chick fledges as successful season wraps up

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The albatrosses at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head are on track for a record-breaking breeding season, as their Royal Cam star Tiaki takes to the skies.

And this year, those who watched Tiaki grow on the livestream can continue to follow her journey thanks to a satellite tracker that will give new understanding of where the albatrosses go in their early years.

The chicks have been growing steadily since hatching through January and February. The first to fledge, or leave the nest, took flight on 6 September. It is expected they will all have fledged by early October.

Department of Conservation Biodiversity Ranger Theo Thompson says it’s rewarding to see so many chicks leaving the colony after a successful season.

"If all of the remaining chicks fledge successfully, we will have a record-breaking year of 30 fledglings. Previously, the highest number of chicks we’ve had fledge is 28.

"Tiaki and the other chicks will spend the next four to 10 years travelling thousands of kilometres at sea without once touching the land, before eventually returning to Taiaroa Head to breed themselves."

He says Tiaki has been a calm but talkative chick who has been healthy all season - providing great viewing for those tuning in to Royal Cam.

So far this season (since 1 December 2020), the livestream has had more than 2.3 million views, and was watched for about 400,000 hours.

Otago Peninsula Trust Ecotourism Manager Hoani Langsbury says this is a great time of year at the Royal Albatross Centre: "I get to be an empty nester for a short time after the chicks fledge, but the void is quickly filled by the coming season’s breeders returning.

"Pukekura is the only accessible location on the planet to observe the majestic comings and goings of the Northern Royal Albatross! Haere haumaru! Until the next Royal Cam chick is crowned."

DOC Principal Marine Science Advisor Igor Debski says a 20g solar-powered satellite tracker, fitted to Tiaki on September 9, will provide valuable insight into where these birds go to forage during their early years.

"This will help us understand where they face risks as bycatch in fisheries.

"Tiaki’s parents both had trackers fitted in February. Her father LGK has travelled more than 65,000 kilometres since."

The trackers are taped to feathers on the birds’ backs. They are designed to last about a year and will fall off when the albatross moults.

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