Natures Slope Soarers

Royal Albatross


Went to New Zealand earlier this year, and watched these wonderful natural gliders at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin.

 Certainly brought back memories of Bellthorpe. Taiaroa Head is the  only mainland nesting site in the world for Royal Albatross.

 We had been here once already on our NZ visit, with winds around 10 to 15 knot westerly we paid the $40/head admission and watched them doing some formation flying.  With wingspans up to 3.3m they are 2nd only in size to the Wandering Albatross (3.7m).

 Other interesting info:

  • Their flying weight is between 7 and 8 kg
  • Flight speeds can exceed 100kph
  • The adults feed for their single chick for 7 to 8 months, after sitting on the egg for around 80 days.
  • At one point the chick can weigh as much as 12kg, parents then reduce feeding to 3 to 4 times per day.
  • When the chick makes its 1st flight it does not return to land for 5 years

We got our second opportunity as part of Elm Wildlife Tours (highly recommended), which amongst other sites also visits Taiaroa Heads.  This day winds were very light Easterly and we opted out of the entrance fee to the viewing rooms.  Our guide didnt have high expectations with the light breeze most likely not encouraging the birds to do any flying.

But luck was on our side and our guide spotted one incoming low over the water.   There was only enough breeze to force the albatross to do 3 or 4 passes to gain enough height to get over the head to the nesting site on the back side of the hill.  This continued for the next hour, brilliant for watchers and photographers.  We noticed only an occasional wing flap mostly none.  Our guide explained they only flap to get forward momentum, not to gain altitude.

Anyhow hope you enjoy the pics, more under Picture Galleries.  I was pretty happy with the shots considering it was all done manual focus (looks like Im up for a new camera, now there's a bonus).

Cheers, Frank..