Name search for NZ same sex couple's chick
05 Jan 2010
New Zealand has a reputation for world-leading gay rights so when a couple of rare birds of the same sex teamed up in a shared parenting role, no one was too fazed.
Last month (December 2009) conservation rangers confirmed two female royal albatrosses were incubating an egg on the Otago Peninsula - the southern hemispere’s only mainland breeding colony of the endangered sea birds.
The same sex couple had been involved in a failed threesome breeding attempt with a male albatross last year, and rangers were skeptical about the future of their relationship.
But they're proving to be ideal parents, and attention is now focused on their new arrival.
With the albatross chick due to hatch later this month, Tourism Dunedin has launched a naming competition with suggestions being taken at the Royal Albatross Centre and on Dunedin NZ’s Facebook page.
Conservation rangers are impressed that both females have stuck to their nesting instincts and are fulfilling their parenting role.
They say the same sex relationship was earlier thought to be on shaky ground and a dummy egg was substituted in case the couple didn’t stay together and deserted the nest.
But both proved to be good parents and seemed happy incubating so the original egg was returned.
Now the unusual couple is creating a lot of interest at the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula - a 30-minute drive from Dunedin’s city centre.
The peninsula was recently named in the world’s top ten destinations for twitchers (bird watchers) by Lonely Planet. In addition to albatross and yellow-eyed penguins, Otago Peninsula is home to New Zealand fur seals, sea lions, Hector’s dolphins, little blue penguins and cormorants.
The Albatross Centre runs guided tours, educating visitors about the breeding process and viewing the huge seabirds soaring across the sea on their huge three-metre wing span.
A Monarch Wildlife Cruise also gives people the chance to see the birds reach speeds of 115kph.
When the new albatross chick hatches, the female parents will feed and nurture it until it becomes fully fledged. When it takes off on its first flight it will stay at sea for three to six years without touching land.
Conservation rangers say news of the unusual albatross pair came to light after suspicions that two male yellow-eyed penguins were also incubating an egg on the Otago Peninsula.
The "gay penguin couple" live at Penguin Place, a private conservation reserve near the Royal Albatross Centre. Penguin Place operates 90-minute tours of the reserve with all profits going back towards penguin conservation.
Like albatross, the yellow-eyed penguins prefer to breed in private so Penguin Place has built shelters and replanted native bush to provide privacy for the modest creatures.
At the end of each day, the penguins return from sea to their private shelters and greet their partners with a loud screech. Single penguins search for potential partners by making similar loud screeching sounds. The Maori name for yellow-eyed penguins is hoiho which translates to ‘noise shouter’.
Both the albatross and yellow-eyed penguins have similar endearing characteristics and can only be found on New Zealand’s south east coast and outer islands.
The two rare species tend to have one partner for life. ‘Divorce’ mostly occurs when nesting fails. The divorce rate of a yellow-eyed penguin is around seven percent.
Taiaroa Head - royal albatross colony
Tourism Dunedin Facebook page
Bird conservation in New Zealand
Iconic New Zealand birds
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