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Royal Albatross Family Welcomes Newest Member

Watch the Royal Albatross chick return to the nest after hatching.

Viewers from around the world have been watching, and the long wait is finally over! The Northern Royal Albatross family nesting in New Zealand at the Quarry Track nest site successfully hatched their single egg on January 26. Tune in live to meet the big-billed, downy chick. Watch cam.

A Long Time Coming: Given that it’s one of the largest birds to grace the skies, it’s no surprise that the Northern Royal Albatross has one of the longest incubation periods (74–85 days) of any species! The female (named YRK for her leg bands colored yellow/red/black) kicked off the breeding season when she laid an egg way back on November 9. Since then, she’s switched off incubation duties for 78 days with her mate OGK (orange/green/black) until the chick showed signs of hatching.

Not Your Usual Hatch: The parents aren’t the only ones looking after the chicks at the Taiaroa Head Nature Reserve. Our partners at the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) enlist several conservation measures to ensure that these endangered albatross have the best chance at success.  

DOC Rangers begin monitoring eggs as soon as hatching time approaches. At first signs of a pip (a break in the eggshell), the egg is transported to an incubator for the remainder of the 6-day hatching process. This protects the hatching chicks from an often fatal infestation by fly larvae—known as “fly strike”—during the hatching process. To keep the adults motivated to incubate at the nest, DOC rangers carefully insert a dummy egg in the nest when they remove the pipping egg.

Chicks are immediately returned to the nest after hatching, and the parents resume caring for their young. Watch the tender moment when the Royal Cam chick met YRK for the first time on January 26

A Longer Road Ahead: The albatross family is now embarking on a marathon, 7.5-month nestling period before the chick will be ready to set out on its own. Learn what to expect over the next month of the breeding season in this video, and be sure to follow the Royal Albatross cam on Twitter @RoyAlbatrossCam to stay up to date on all the royal family’s adventures.   

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Pileated Woodpecker by Lin McGrew / Macaulay Library