First albatross chick hatches

Dunedin's Royal albatross colony has a new resident.

The first northern Royal albatross chick of the 2020-21 breeding season hatched at the colony at Taiaroa Head yesterday.

According to Dunedin tradition, a happy birthday flag flew from the Dunedin City Council’s mayoral flagpole to celebrate the event.

Department of Conservation ranger Sharyn Broni said the new chick narrowly claimed the title over two other chicks which were not far away from hatching.

"This season, 41 eggs were laid, the second-highest to date, and while not all were viable, we are hopeful a high number will hatch successfully over the next three to four weeks," she said.

Otago Peninsula Trust ecotourism manager Hoani Langsbury said it was a good time to visit the colony, as there were several nests within view of the observatory.

He said fans of the birds had been watching the RoyalCam couple LGL and LGK, waiting for their new chick to hatch.

It was expected about January 25.

"Watchers have also been entertained by non-breeding albatross busy looking for partners, courting and partying," he said.

Trust general manager Robyn McDonald said they were concerned about the forecast for a hot summer and the effect it could have on albatross chicks.

Summer heat could be a challenge for the nesting adults and young chicks as overheating and fly strike could be fatal.

Donations had previously allowed the trust to upgrade the nest irrigation system used to cool the albatrosses on hot, dry days.

All the water was trucked in, which cost about $40,000 each year.

One hundred-and-forty albatrosses have been seen this season since September.

Breeding usually takes place on a two-year cycle, but birds whose nests fail sometimes return the following season to breed again, which was the reason for this year’s increased nest and egg numbers.

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