An albatross has died as heat stress and fly strike hit the
protected population of northern royal albatrosses at Taiaroa
Head on Otago Peninsula.
The Department of Conservation turned on its irrigation lines
last week, after adult birds started to show signs of heat
stress, and fly strike became a major risk, Doc ranger Lyndon
''This is a really critical stage.''
The system significantly reduced the risk of fly strike for
eggs and chicks during hot weather. So far, five of the 20
chicks that had hatched had been affected by fly strike.
Staff were checking the eggs and chicks regularly. Once
chicks were two days old, they moved enough to deter flies.
When an adult was too hot and left the nest, chicks could be
exposed to the sun and, in one such case, Mr Perriman carried
a chick with him to monitor its condition before putting it
in an incubator until its mother returned to the nest.
An adult female albatross on her first visit to the colony
since she fledged four years ago died last week. She was not
sitting on an egg and those that were not breeding usually
headed for the sea when temperatures on land got too hot, he
said. However, she was found caught in rushes and panting
hard. She was released and placed where she could fly off,
but was found dead the next morning.
Of the seven eggs that remained, five were hatching and
another two were expected to hatch in the next few days.
If all survived to fledging, numbers would equal that of the
colony's best year but there was a ''long way to go before
that'', he said.
The predicted change in weather, with showers forecast this
weekend, would be welcomed, as the chicks would be large
enough to cope and the risk of fly strike would be reduced,
Mr Perriman said.