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A menage a trois has ruffled feathers on Otago Peninsula as a love nest falls apart.
A northern royal albatross has flown the nest with her new beau, abandoning her egg and partner.
For more than 12 days, her partner of many years sat on the egg waiting for her to return.
He could not leave their egg vulnerable to the elements so close to hatching but needed to leave the nest to catch much-needed food.
Staff at the Taiaroa Head albatross colony had to step in to save the egg and its dad.
The egg was transferred to foster parents and hatched a few days later.
Dad left the nest and had not returned, while the chick was doing fine with its adopted family.
Department of Conservation ranger Lyndon Perriman said one albatross could not raise a chick by itself.
The tale began last year when the pair arrived to breed again. He returned to the spot on the hill where they had raised chicks in previous years, while she returned to the exact spot down the hill where they first bred.
''She's come and laid an egg on the original site and got to know another male, while the other male was up the hill not knowing where she was.''
However, he finally found her at the original nest site and the three began to share incubating duties, although they did not always get on, he said.
''We put a dummy egg in after a while in case one of the males got stroppy and put his hoof through it [the egg].''
The egg was put back closer to hatching, but then it was discovered the female and her new man had left the colony and not returned.
Mr Perriman said they did not expect to see either bird back before next season.
In the 2009-10 season, the colony attracted international attention when two female albatrosses successfully incubated an egg.