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Royal Albatross Chick Returned To Nest After Hatching In Incubator

The female (YRK) prepares to feed her chick.

We’ve got “egg-citing” news that’ll have you bursting out of your shell! The Northern Royal Albatross chick hatched in an incubator on January 31 and is now back in the nest and under the care of its parents. (Read on for links to highlight clips from this process.) The female (YRK) is currently watching over the chick after relieving her mate from parental duties at the nest on February 3. Now it’s your chance to watch this downy hatchling grow into one of the world’s largest seabirds on the Royal Albatross cam. 

A Need For Conservation

Northern Royal Albatross face many threats related to habitat loss, rising temperatures, and invasive species. They are designated as an “At Risk” species in New Zealand and are listed as endangered by the IUCN. Because of their delicate situation, a number of conservation measures have been put in place by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) to help improve the nest success of the albatross at the Taiaroa Head Nature Reserve—home to the only mainland colony of albatross in the Southern Hemisphere.   

Keeping Hatchlings Healthy

One threat that all Royal Albatross chicks are particularly vulnerable to is infestation by fly larvae—known as “fly strike”—during the hatching process. Chicks may take up to 6 days to hatch, and flies can quickly take advantage of a helpless hatchling during that period, often with fatal results. To remove the risk of fly strike during hatching, DOC rangers now carefully transport all pipping albatross eggs to hatch in an incubator. Watch this highlight to learn how rangers managed the transfer of the egg from the on-cam nest on January 26. 

After 5 days in the incubator, the on-cam chick hatched and was swiftly returned to the nest on January 31 to be cared for and fed by the parent—but the danger isn’t over yet. Fly strike remains a risk for up to two weeks after hatching. During this critical period, viewers will see DOC rangers make frequent checks at the nest to inspect for signs of fly strike and monitor the chick for healthy weight. Keep up to date on all of the happenings at the nest by following the cam (@RoyAlbatrossCam) and the DOC (@docgovtnz) on Twitter.

What’s Still To Come

Now that the chick has returned to the nest, the real fun begins! Hatching kicks off a lengthy 8-month period of growth and development. The adult female (YRK) and male (OGK) will continue tag-teaming the next 4–6 weeks as they take turns guarding and feeding their chick at the nest while the other one forages. For an itinerary of what’s to come over the next eight months, check out this month-to-month description of a typical Northern Royal Albatross breeding season from the DOC. 

Thanks to our partners at the New Zealand Department of Conservation for their help in sharing the lives of Northern Royal Albatross with the world. 

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Pileated Woodpecker by Lin McGrew / Macaulay Library