Albatross centre ready to beat heat

An albatross nurses an egg at Taiaroa Head yesterday. PHOTO: JIM WATTS (DOC)
An albatross nurses an egg at Taiaroa Head yesterday. PHOTO: JIM WATTS (DOC)
As it has increased efforts to protect young birds from searing heat, Dunedin's albatross centre hopes to follow a disastrous breeding season with record births.

The Royal Albatross Centre said yesterday 118 albatrosses had returned to Taiaroa Head for the breeding season and had already laid seven eggs.

Last year, the colony had a devastating year. Of 33 eggs, only 13 chicks fledged because of unexpected continued heat.

Otago Peninsula Trust marketing manager Sophie Barker said the centre and Department of Conservation had worked hard making sure systems were in place to deal with high heat if the city experienced similar temperatures this year.

This included investment in new irrigation systems and incubators to cool the birds when needed.

"So they're very well prepared this season. Last season it was fairly unexpected that it was so hot.''

The first breeding birds arrived a month ago.

"Ones who failed last season will come back this season as well, so we'll expect a few more than usual.''

The numbers back this season were up on this time last year, although an official count was not done until January when the teenage birds also arrived.

Last season 151 birds returned to the colony.

Returned pairs include the parents of Moana, who was the first star of the department's internationally popular chick webcam in 2016.

If there was an increase in chicks this season, the department's rangers would likely be working extra time to manage them, Ms Barker said.

The department was unable to comment yesterday on investments in heat mitigation.

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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