Dunedin’s Royal Albatross Centre is preparing for a possible influx of albatross chicks following a record number of eggs being laid this year.
Fifty one eggs have been laid this season compared to an average of 30-35 eggs over each of the past five years.
DOC Ranger Jim Watts, says while it’s still early days, the popular albatross colony at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head could soon see a population boost.
“Each time we find another egg we get even more excited, we’re hoping for a great rate of hatching success to make up for last year’s poor season”.
Last year extreme weather conditions resulted in a higher than usual number of failed nests and only 13 chicks fledged compared with 26 and 23 chicks over the previous two years.
“Breeding usually takes place on a two-year cycle, however birds whose nests fail sometimes return the following season to breed again and this is the reason for this year’s increased nest and egg numbers”, explains Jim Watts.
“We know some eggs will be infertile and one egg was found broken in its nest. While we can expect other challenges such as early embryo deaths, we’re still hopeful this will turn out to be our best breeding season yet.”
Royal Albatross Centre Manager Hoani Langsbury says albatross fans are in for a treat next year.
“This is a really exciting time, we’re hoping the record number of eggs will lead to lots of fluffy chicks and a wonderful experience for visitors to the centre.”
“We know loyal fans of the Royal cam chicks will be closely watching to see this year’s egg hatch and another generation of albatross grow up in this special place.”
In the coming days the Royal cam web camera will be moved closer to a nest which is within the camera cable’s range so the hatching progress can be live streamed.
This year’s chicks will be kept cool over summer thanks to the generosity of visitors to the colony and donations from a Givealittle page set up by the Otago Peninsula Trust to directly benefit the albatross conservation effort at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head.
“Over the last few weeks we have replaced the irrigation system used to cool the albatrosses on hot, dry days by upgrading the piping to endure the increasingly extreme weather conditions”, says Jim Watts.
“We also have new egg-candling and supplementary feeding equipment which will improve albatross management and the donations should also cover the cost of squid supplies for the rest of the season, until the last chick fledges around early October next year.”
A highlight of other major improvements made is two new incubators which replace the aging single unit at the colony.
The chicks are likely to start hatching mid-January.
You can watch the albatrosses breeding season progress on Royal cam.