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Mating, Courting, Adolescent birds returning, Nest building
With the new season kicking into gear, romance blossoms on the Otago Peninsula and you can observe Albatross courtship all throughout October as our breeding pairs spend time strengthening their lifelong pair bonds. This is an all-important task as the egg laying period approaches! Nests need to be built in preparation for this; watch as each male attempts to impress his female with his nest building skills.
Youngsters are also beginning to return to the headland; adolescent teenagers looking for their own lifelong partner. After spending the last 5 years out at sea flying solo, they are ready for some socialising! They start arriving back to the wildlife capital of New Zealand, here in Dunedin, and can be seen forming teenage parties throughout October, as the season for young love begins.
The Department of Conservation rangers will also be preparing for the season ahead, monitoring which of our banded birds are returning, where the nests are being built, and most importantly; who is dating who?!
Top 10 Royal Albatross Facts
1. Northern Royal Albatross wingspan is three metres, albatrosses are the world’s largest seabirds.
2. Height when standing is around one metre, with feet the size of a human hand. Adult weight is around 7kg
3. Top speed of an albatross in flight is about 110kph. They can fly over 1,000km in a day and up to 19,000 km in a year.
4. Albatross take two years to raise one chick. Mating takes place in September/October, egg laying and brooding November/ December/ January, hatching January/February and feeding the chick right through to August/September, then the parents have a year off overseas.
5. Squid is albatross’ favourite food, although Dunedin’s albatross eat a lot of octopus.
6. ‘Albatross tears’ are actually salt being excreted via a gland excess salt from drinking seawater
7. Pair bonding is usually for life. There are also around three or four female-female pair who help raise chicks at Taiaroa Head.
8. Chicks fledge at around eight months old. They take off for on average five years, never touching land until they return to Taiaroa Head to search for a mate and partake in elaborate courtship rituals.
9. The first Royal Albatross chick fledged from Taiaroa Head in 1938; the colony now has around 250 birds. Average life span is 25 years.
10. Dunedin is the only place in the world where you can visit a breeding colony on a mainland. It’s an easy 45 minute from the central city to Taiaroa Head/Pukekura