Signals cease from third Taiaroa Head albatross

Tora, Taiaroa Head albatross colony's 500th chick, has gone off-line.

The satellite transmitters tracking it and another albatross as they crossed the Southern Ocean to the coast of Chile are no longer sending signals back.

Three albatross chicks were fitted with lightweight satellite transmitters, which were attached to their back feathers, in September 2007.

The GPS locations were taken every six hours, giving the birds' location to within 15m and were sent in via satellite every sixth day.

Toroa stopped transmitting on September 24, the second bird on August 31 and the third on February 10.

The first two birds were showing positions off the coast of Chile when the transmissions stopped.

Massey University scientist Bindy Thomas said she would keep checking the transmissions for six months as it was not unheard of for transmission to start again.

It was not known what caused the end of the transmissions but it was likely because the birds had moulted, shedding the back feathers the transmitters were attached to.

As most similar studies had lost transmission at about six months, getting 12 months of data was good, she said.

Among the data able to be collected was that Toroa recorded a maximum speed of 109kmh, the maximum altitude above sea level reached was 29m and the maximum total daily distance he flew was 1020km, recorded during October when he was crossing the Southern Ocean.

While she still had to analyse and write up the data, first impressions were that the tracking exercise had confirmed what people believed about the albatross' flight paths.

"There has been no big surprises."

She would investigate further to see if there was a link between Toroa's journey further south of Chile, the day before a volcano erupted in the region.


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