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Life of the Northern Royal


(Diomedea sanfordi)

Albatross are the world’s largest seabirds. They normally breed on remote islands and spend at least 85% of their lives at sea, well away from land and human view. Dunedin’s Taiaroa Head is the only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony in the world.

a bird standing in front of a body of water

Renowned ocean wanderers, they travel vast distances from their breeding grounds to feed. The Northern Royal Albatross, with its massive three metre wingspan, flies an estimated 190,000 kilometres a year.

These birds are also a taonga species to Māori, highlighting cultural significance and importance.

The breeding birds arrive at Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula in September. They nest during early November and within the following three weeks an egg is laid – one only per pair, each two years.

The parents share incubation duty as it lasts a period of 80 days! The chicks hatch from late January to early February. The parents take turns at guarding the chick for the first 35 days to protect it from predators. After that the chick is by itself, with parents only returning with food every few days. It takes eight months for the little balls of fluff to become not so little juveniles, and they will finally take their first ever flight in September! 12 months after their arrival at Taiaroa Head, the chicks’ parents finally leave the colony to spend a year at sea before returning to breed again.

a cat sitting on top of a grass covered field

The young Royal Albatross will spend the next three to five years at sea, never touching land during that time. Many then return to this unique headland to start another generation of Royals of Ōtepoti’s Taiaroa Head.

The Royal Albatross Centre, The Otago Peninsula Trust, and the Department of Conservation combine to protect and preserve the albatross of Taiaroa Head and have initiated many research projects, alongside the University of Otago, so that we may better understand these majestic seabirds. A proportion of every ticket sold at the Royal Albatross Centre goes directly towards the fostering and protection of the Northern Royal Albatross.



Check out the live webcam of one of our Royal’s nests! The webcam runs 24 hours a day, tune in to watch what is happening on Taiaroa Head.

a close up of a bird flying over a body of water

See where the 20/21 season Royal Cam chick Tiaki is, with her GPS tracking 


2021/22 Royal Cam Chick Profile: Yet to hatch!

  • Egg laid: 09/11/21

  • Dad: OGK colour bands (orange, green, black), 24 years old

  • Mum: YRK colour bands (yellow, red, black), 28 years old

2020/21 Royal Cam Chick Profile: Tiaki

  • Egg laid: 07/11/2020

  • Egg hatched: 24/01/2021
  • Chick fledged: 25/09/2021 – age 244 days

  • Female

  • Parents colour bands: LGK (Dad), LGL (Mum)

Chicks Fledged:

  • 2013/14 season: 26
  • 2014/15 season: 24
  • 2015/16 season: 23
  • 2017/18 season: 13
  • 2018/19 season: 28
  • 2019/20 season: 24
  • 2020/21 season: 30
  • 2021/22 season: 25 chicks in the colony


With albatross spending at least 85 percent of their lives at sea, the work done by the Department of Conservation at Taiaroa Head, funded by you, is essential if we are to have any chance at protecting this endangered species. Of the 22 species of albatross found around the would, 18 are considered threatened on some level (Amsterdam Albatross – Status: Critically Endangered, Estimated Population: 100 individuals remaining).

a pile of rocks

Stomach contents of a Laysan Albatross chick, found on the Midway Atoll, containing 52 items of plastic.

Two of the biggest threats that face these graceful giants in our oceans is; LONG-LINE FISHING and PLASTIC POLLUTION. As consumers, making small-scale decisions will have large-scale changes for the benefit of our wildlife. The Northern Royal Albatross found in Ōtepoti travel thousands of kilometres across the oceans each year, encountering a whole host of threats. By reducing our usage of single-use plastics and sourcing our fish sustainably, we can help protect what we have left.


The Otago Peninsula Trust is a not-for-profit charitable conservation trust, relying on the help and support from you! There are a few ways in which you can help:

  • Visit Us – Plan a day out on the peninsula! Click here for more info.

  • Get Involved – Become a member today! Click here for more info.

  • Donate – Donations are a fantastic way to ensure that the work done to protect our wildlife can continue. Go to our Givealittle Fundraising page.


Thank you for your continuing support!

Ngā mihi maioha