A day in the life of the Royal Albatross Chick

The Royal Albatross are one of the largest seabirds in the world. They are also some of the longest lived sea birds in the world with an average life expectancy of forty years. That record was, however broken when ‘Grandma’, the oldest banded bird, raised her last chick at Taiaroa Head, NZ when she was sixty-two years old. This is an excellent video by David Attenborough on Grandma and the only colony of albatross where there are humans at Taiaroa Head near Dundedin, NZ. I hope you can open it!

This year’s yet-to-be-named Royal chick hatched on 24 January 2021. Its parents are Lime-Green-Lime (LGL), the mother. She is twelve years old. Lime-Green-Black is the father and he is eleven years old (LGK).

It is 5 March 2021 in New Zealand. The sun is just rising over Taiaroa Head. Already the cargo vessels are passing where the Albatross breed and raise their chicks.

The Royal Cam chick is forty days old today. This is the first time the chick has spent the night alone on its nest. It is in what is called the ‘pre-guard’ stage. The parents come and feed the chick after foraging and spend some time with them. This transition period to being completely unguarded might just be beginning. Normally the chicks are guarded during their first five or six weeks. After they spend the time alone on their nest except for feeding visits from their parents. The Royal cam chick will fledge when it is about eight months old.

Large container vessel transport

Day in and day out a myriad of different types of shipping vessels pass by Taiaroa Head. This one toots its horn and wakes the Royal Cam chick up as it passes. The sun is just coming up.

The chick will spend the rest of the morning passing the time by watching the sea and playing with the materials in its nest.

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, the chick hears a familiar sound. LGL has returned from the sea and is doing a sky call. Sky calls are often described as high pitched screaming brays. Sky calls happen during socializing. Here you can listen to the sound of the sky call.

In this instance, LGL is announcing to her chick that she has arrived. Eventually the chicks will learn how to do the sky calls and will do one in return and with the parents.

The chick turns around and recognizes her mother. The mother is moving her eyes and head over the horizon. The Albatross do this often as a way of checking their surroundings.

LGL is clacking away happily. The little chick has raised its bill and is doing a gentle clacking. As the chick gets older and is hungrier when the parents arrive, this action – the clacking of the bill – will become more aggressive. It is a way to stimulate the parent to regurgitate food to feed them.

LGL does not feed her chick right away. She wants to spend time with it. She talks to the chick, acknowledges its bill clacking, and does some preening of its down.

After some time, the pair stop and check their surroundings.

The mother starts preening the head of the chick very gently.

Then she preens its back and wings. It must be like going to a spa for a massage.

After LGL is finished preening her chick’s neck, she touches the chicks bill and stimulates it so that the chick will begin clacking and tapping her bill. LGL reguritates the rich oily liquid squid shake and gives her chick a nice long feeding.

The Royal Cam chick may be only forty days old but it weighed 3 kilograms three days ago. The Chicks are regularly weighed on Tuesdays once they reach a certain weight.

This chick loves those squid shakes and has grown so much that the parents can no longer brood it. The little one wants to be close to mom so it cuddles up under her beautiful wing and tail feathers.

After a bit of a rest, LGL and the chick both look around.

Another boat is coming!

Rain has started to fall and the little one gets as close as it can to its mother so it will stay dry!

5 March 2021. Gentle rain changes to heavier rain.

The rain has stopped and LGL has spent the night with her chick. This morning she is alert. It is 5:45 am in Taiaroa Head, NZ and the boats are already passing.

Guarding chick before dawn. 6 March 2021

LGL feeds her chick before going out to fish – to feed herself and to return to her little one. Such a great mom!

LGL looks at the sea and the wind. The chick is asleep and before it wakes up she is off to fish.

This year there are satellite trackers on the parents so that researchers and the public can follow their movements. This information has show that they are feeding very close to where the chick is waiting.

I will also add that the northern island of New Zealand experienced three very strong earthquakes on 5 March 2021. Those earthquakes and the tsunamis that came did not impact the colony of Albatrosses at Taiaroa head. They reside near the very bottom of the South Island.

——

Sometimes the Royal Cam chick has visitors when its parents aren’t there. Meet Henry the Heron. Henry loves to do his snake dance for the chick and he also likes to photobomb the Royal streaming camera. Hi Henry!

Thanks for popping in to check on the Royal Albatross chick. This nest is fun to watch and there is no stress. The NZ Department of Conservation keep close watch on all of the albatross making sure they are healthy. The little one is weighed on Tuesday morning NZ time. And here is the link if you would like to add this lovely family to your bird watching list:

Thank you to Cornell Labs and the New Zealand Department of Conservation for their streaming cams. This is where the scaps were taken.

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