Albatross colony breeding season boost

One of the three new albatross chicks at Taiaroa Head is nurtured by its proud parent. PHOTO:...
One of the three new albatross chicks at Taiaroa Head is nurtured by its proud parent. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A superb breeding season may make a vital contribution to the future of the royal albatross colony at Pukekura, the Peninsula Trust says.

The first chicks of the breeding season emerged from their shells yesterday, three infants joining about 250 albatrosses which call the colony home.

Some 150 of those birds returned this breeding season, and the 51 eggs they laid is far and away the best return in the past three years.

Of those, 39 were fertile, and if the majority of the chicks survived to adulthood that could lead to a considerable boost in the colony's numbers, trust spokeswoman Sophie Barker said.

"It's fantastic news and we expect it will help the population to grow.''

In 2016-17, 23 chicks fledged from 29 fertile eggs.

Last season, the colony was hard hit by heat wave conditions, which resulted in only 13 chicks fledging from 26 fertile eggs.

"It has been good weather for hatching, the birds don't like it when it is too hot,'' Ms Barker said.

"There has been this lovely cold breeze, which we need for the parents to go out to sea and feed - people might be annoyed by it, but we're delighted.''

Albatrosses normally bred every two years, but unsuccessful parents often returned to try again the following season.

"That is the reason for this year's increased nest and egg numbers,'' Ms Barker said.

"We would expect the parents who fail this year to come back again in 2019-20 and those parents who didn't come back this year to return - they should number in the 20s or 30s - so, hopefully, the growth will be exponential.''

For the past two years, the antics of the colony dwellers have been broadcast to the world via the "Royalcam'' web camera.

Webcam parents this year - LGL and LGK - have yet to hatch their egg. Ms Barker believed the new star chick would arrive in a few days.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz


 

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