The Northern Royal Albatross breeding colony at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head welcomed its newest member at the Top Flat nest on January 23! Watch the first moments between parent and chick after a ranger from the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) returned the fluffy chick to the nest after spending three days hatching out in the safety of an incubator. The chick is now working on plumping up thanks to plenty of meals from mom (named LGL) and dad (LGK). Don’t miss a moment of the action—watch live.
Keeping Hatchlings Safe: One of the world’s largest seabirds, Northern Royal Albatrosses are listed as an endangered by the IUCN and have a global population that is declining annually. That why the DOC rangers working at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head—home to the only mainland colony of albatrosses in the Southern Hemisphere—do everything they can to help chicks survive the challenges of the breeding season.
One of the biggest threats to hatching chicks is the infestation of parasitic fly larvae. Northern Royal Albatross chicks take several days to fully emerge from their eggs. During this time, flies will lay maggots on the chick and eggs (a process known as ‘flystrike’), which can quickly lead to the death of chicks. To remove the risk of flystrike, DOC rangers transport hatching eggs to an incubator, where chicks can safely complete the hatching process before being returned to their parent at the nest. Nests are also sprayed with a bird-safe insecticide as an additional measure to keep flies at bay.
Back In The Nest: After reuniting with their chick, the attending parent begins regurgitating meals of energy-dense stomach oil (distilled from the fish and squid they hunt at sea) to their hungry hatchling a few times each day. Parents save up enough food to feed their chick for several days until their mate returns from foraging at sea to take over duties at the nest.
The adults will continue to swap between ocean foraging and nestling care for another 4–6 weeks. At that point, the chick will have grown large enough to spend time at the nest alone, and both parents will begin full-time foraging duties to supply enough food to their rapidly developing chick.
After hatching, the rangers’ work continues across the headland. Don’t be surprised to see DOC staff arrive at the nest with a bag and scale to monitor the weight of the Royal Cam chick. This is common practice at all of the nests in the breeding colony to ensure that nestlings are growing as expected. If they find a chick is underweight for their age, supplemental meals will be provided in the form of a well-blended fish smoothie. Track the Royal Cam chick’s weight throughout the breeding season.
Second Site: Don’t forget about the second nest that’s in view of the cam this season! The parents at the Top Flat Track nest site are attempting their first successful nesting season. The nest can be seen nestled in the tall grass to the right of the Top Flat nest. The view of this nest will open up as the season progresses and the tall grass dies down.
Follow daily updates from the cam on Twitter/X @RoyAlbatrossCam.
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