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Have you ever seen a one metre high chick with three metre wingspan trying to catch a breeze and practice flying?
Visitors to the Royal Albatross Centre during September are highly entertained watching the giant chicks take their first tentative flying practices. A hop, a skip, a jump, a hover, trying to control those crazy juvenile wings, like a teenager coping with a growth burst, or driving for the first time. The call of the wild blue seas is imperative and chicks are eager to depart their breeding ground and set off on their ocean circumnavigations.
September also heralds the start of the new breeding season; Dunedin has a famous tradition of ringing all the city's bells when the first albatross returns - listen out if you are visiting; if you hear the bells ring yopu'll know that the first ocean wanderer hhas returned to start nesting.
Watch out for windy weather - the 'worse' the weather, the better the flying!
Dunedin is the wildlife capital of New Zealand andTaiaroa Head is the only place in the world with a mainland breeding ground of majestic Royal Albatross.
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
Your only chance to see... the world's only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony. Visit our exclusive observatory on the nature reserve to see giant albatross throughout their breeding cycle as they court, lay eggs and raise huge fluffy chicks.