30 Nov 2020

Northern royal albatross colony celebrates second-highest egg count

5:16 pm on 30 November 2020

A big breeding year is under way for the northern royal albatross colony at the Pukekura/Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula.

Close view of Northern royal albatross in flight, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula.

Photo: Don Mammoser / 123RF

The Department of Conservation says more than 120 albatross have returned to the colony for the season, with 41 eggs laid so far.

It says the eggs will start hatching in mid-January, before fledging around seven months later.

DOC ranger Sharyn Broni said it is the second highest number of eggs recorded at the colony.

The highest count was 51 eggs two years ago.

The department intensively manages the birds from nesting until the chicks fledge, and Broni believes it is paying off.

"It's pretty encouraging, we think a lot of it is to do with the work that we do here to make sure that chicks survive," she said.

"If we weren't incubating eggs and hatching them out and protecting them from flies those numbers would be really well down."

Broni said there are only four colonies in New Zealand, and 20,000 birds worldwide.

The birds can be viewed live by anyone at any time thanks to the popular livestream known as Royal Cam, which is planted at the colony.

DOC said the colony is the only mainland place in the world to view northern royal albatross in their natural habitat.

Each year, the livestream focuses on one breeding pair as they raise a chick to fledge.

DOC said "fan favourites" LGL (female) and LGK (male) will once again be livestreamed.

Broni said LGL and LGK were chosen for the livestream because they nested close to where last season's chick Atawhai was raised, so regular viewers had already become excited to watch them set up their nest and lay their egg.

Last season, the livestream had more than 2.5 million views and was watched for 584,033 hours.

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