Nest cam introduces New Zealand albatross chick to the world

A northern royal albatross chick at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula will never know that it's being watched by the world.

Online spectators can now watch a northern royal albatross chick growing up at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has set up a web cam beside an albatross nest at the Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head. DOC worked with the Otago Peninsula Trust, Pukekura Co-management Trust, Wellington City Council and Dunedin City Council to install the web cam.

The chick in the nest hatched five days ago and is being filmed 24 hours a day. DOC’s threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki launched the 'royal cam' which went live today.

Nicola said this is the first time a web cam has been used to view an albatross at the colony. Taiaroa is the world’s only mainland royal albatross breeding colony.

“We are thrilled to share the life history of these awesome seabirds with the rest of New Zealand and the world. Few people in the world have the chance to get this close to a nesting albatross chick. It’s quite amazing to look right into the nest to see the chick’s new beginning. We are grateful to our supporters for helping make this happen,” Nicola said.  

The parents will take turns guarding and feeding the chick for the next five or six weeks. They will then leave it unguarded, except for feeding visits, until it fledges (is ready to fly) at about eight months. The sex of the chick is unknown at this stage.

The web cam will film the chick over the next eight months. Highlights may include the part both parents play in raising the chick, DOC rangers monitoring and caring for the chick, and challenges it is likely to face such as extremes of weather, vulnerability to predators and pests and reliance on its parents to provide enough food to sustain it throughout winter. In spring, it will leave Taiaroa Head to spend 4 - 10 years circumnavigating the southern hemisphere.  

You can watch the albatross chick at www.doc.govt.nz/royalcam

Royal Albatross - an icon

Northern royal albatross are a vulnerable species and an icon of Dunedin. It is a taonga (treasured) species for the Ngāi Tahu Māori tribe.

With a wing span of over three metres, the northern royal albatross isthe largest seabirdsin the world.

After the chick fledges, the parents will leave the colony and spend the following year at sea. They then return to breed again, completing a two-year cycle.

DOC manages the northern royal albatross colony with the support of the Otago Peninsula Trust, Pukekura Co-management Trust and Dunedin City Council. The colony has benefited from decades of DOC’s management and predator control. It has grown from one breeding pair in 1937 to about 30 pairs in 2015. 10,000 seabirds are also thriving at Taiaroa Head, including threatened red-billed gulls and Stewart Island shags.

Albatross Colony – Otago Peninsula

No less an authority than British naturalist Sir David Attenborough has described the Otago Peninsula as “a very special place” and it’s not hard to see why. With the world’s only mainland breeding albatross colony at Taiaroa Head, it’s possible for visitors to see these majestic seabirds with a wingspan of more than three metres soaring at speeds of up to 120 km per hour. Visit between September and November to see the breeding birds arriving at the headland and building nests. Chicks hatch from late January to late February and, aided by a strong gust of wind, take their first flight in September.

Travel Tips
Air New Zealand has daily flights to Dunedin. The Royal Albatross Centre, a 45-minute drive away at Taiaroa Head, offers free 60 and 90-minute tours. For an all-day tour that departs from Dunedin – and also offers the opportunity to see Hooker’s sea lions and Blue Penguins – try Elm Wildlife Tours. A university town with rich Scottish heritage, Dunedin is known for its impressive historic architecture and its buzzy nightlife.