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.

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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.

What’s happening in Bird World?

Today is a bit of a catch up in Bird World. Lots of things are happening so hopefully you will enjoy some very funny moments, a bit of worry, and a celebration. Eggs are being laid all over North America including the nest at the Surrey Reserve part of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation in British Columbia. That happened on 24 February at 4:02 pm. More intruders everywhere. One of the Bald Eagles at the Hays Pittsburg nest was knocked off the nest by a Great Horned Owl on the 24th. This is the first time ever for such an attack at this nest. Sounds familiar? M15 and Harriet remain on full alert at night because of the GHOW in their Fort Myers, Florida territory.

The new mother and the recently hatched eaglet in the KNF nest in the central area of Louisiana seem to be gathering some momentum about feeding and eating. It is still not perfect with the eagle not understanding that it needs to feed its chick many small bites but, luckily the little one grabbed on to a big bite and ate it. Just ate it this morning as it had done yesterday. It was one of those hold your breath moments when you wished that piece of fish down that little one’s throat. That big piece was probably worth ten or more small ones. Yippee. The poor little thing needs its’ face wiped. I don’t think this mother would win a darts game, at least, not yet.

But notice. They now have the mechanics. Mom is sideways and the little one takes its beak at a ninety-degree angle. They are getting there.

Perfect!

It’s noon on the 26th and the little one ‘looks’ better. The mom has the size of the pieces of fish down (most of the time) but the chick, for some reason, doesn’t seem to get to open its beak wide and grab the fish yet.

Getting better but still not fully there.

It’s actually very frustrating watching. Meanwhile, Dad has come in to check on the pantry. It doesn’t take many bites to keep these tiny little ones going but they do need several pieces of fish many times a day. It’s not like E17 and E18 (below) that now have fewer but heartier meals a day during their rapid growth phase. Fingers crossed! It has to be difficult being a first time mom. Humans, normally, have lots of help but this young eagle is all on her own. Most of the time it works out but this year, at least one first time Eagle mom, didn’t know what to do when her day old chick got out of the egg cup while she was incubating the second egg. And it all turned quickly into a tragedy as she picked the baby up with her beak. What option did she have? None other than to wait and it was during the Polar Vortex and there was snow on the ground. The father who was standing at the end of the nest was no help. Sadly, the second egg proved to be not viable for the Berry College Eagle Nest. We will hope this young mother does better next year. Or maybe she will try for a second clutch this year!

Dad checking on the pantry in the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest

Elsewhere, other Bald Eagle parents are filling their eaglets up to the top – making sure that they go into a food coma and don’t fight with one another.

At the SWFL nest, E18 looked like he is going to try out for the role of Hulk in the next movie. Honestly, I have never seen a crop this full. That looks very uncomfortable but he doesn’t seem to mind. These two are literally growing in their sleep and almost overnight, many of E18’s feathers turned dark.

I’m bigger than you are!

It is hot in Fort Meyers, 28 degrees C and everyone is trying to stay cool. Harriet tries to be a mombrella but E17 and E18 are getting really big.

Too big!

The Little one on the NEFL Bald Eagle nest is really starting to change. Notice those dark feathers coming in. But the sweetest thing is that this little one has finally found a good use for ‘that’ egg.

Now this is a perfect place to sit and rest. N24 sits on THE egg.

‘Little’ N24 looks so tiny sitting on that egg but he is too big to fit under Gabby anymore. He cuddles up close trying to stay in the shade as the temperatures begin to rise in St Augustine. Samson has filled the pantry and both him and Gabby have kept any intruders away from the nest.

Awwww. Poor Gabby still trying to incubate THE egg.

As the sun sets, Samson gets into position to keep watch during the night.

Samson is a great dad.

The old Warrior Eagle with the beak and leg injury is doing really well and will have another round of Chelation Therapy. Then he will go outside in the aviary spaces to build up his muscles. The vets and rehabbers will then be able to better assess his future. What an amazing recovery.

Improving every day. Photo credit: A Place of Hope FB.

More and more eagles are winding up in care because of lead poisoning. It is not just an issue for the US but also for Canada. This week alone five Bald Eagles have been treated in British Columbia for various levels of toxic lead poisoning. Wherever there is fishing and hunting this will be a problem until the type of fishing and hunting equipment is changed. That should mean that every state and province should outlaw the use of lead.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, looked like she was heading home to Port Lincoln and the barge but now seems to have changed her mind. She roosts in Eba Anchorage at night flying to Perlubie Wednesday to fish and today, at 159 days old, she has gone farther north to Haslam. There are a lot of people wishing Solly would return to the natal nest so they could have a look at her, she doesn’t seem to be interested. Let us all hope that she finds an amazing territory of her own with lots of fish and she prospers, finds a mate, and is that awesome female Osprey mom that we know she can be.

Solly is on the move. Tracking image: Port Lincoln Ospreys.
Solly continues to return to Eba Anchorage to roost at night. Tracking image: Port Lincoln Osprey.

And here is a peek at the hatchling at the Duke Farms nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Remember that there were three eggs. One laid on Jan 17, the second on the 20th, and the third on the 23rd. If you have followed my postings, you will also remember that this poor eagle was encrusted in snow for many more days than some of the other nests. The dad came and pecked away at the snow so that the female could get out one time.

This poor mother eagle sitting on three eggs had to be pecked out by the dad. Photo credit: Duke Farms Eagle Streaming Cam.

Normally Bald Eagle eggs take 35-37 days to hatch. This is day 40. There is some speculation that egg 3 could be the only viable one.

Egg just hatched. 26 February 2021. Duke Farms. Image Credit: Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

And here is the full reveal below. Great mom. That shell is cleaned up and the little one looks really healthy!

Here I am! 26 February 2021. Duke Farms brand new eaglet. Image credit: Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

The parents of the Royal Cam chick, LGL (Lime Green Lime) and LGK (Lime Green Black), showed up at the natal nest to feed the little one. The chick which weights over 2.2 kilos is now in the ‘pre guard’ stage. This is when the parents leave the chick alone on the nest for short periods of time. They forage close and return to feed the baby. Gradually their time away will increase and it is anticipated that the two alternating will have a nice rhythm, one arriving and leaving and in a few days the other arrives, feeds, and leaves. This type of coordination doesn’t happen often. So it was a delight to see the three of them on the nest together at Taiaroa Head, NZ.

The Royal Cam family. 26 February 2021. Photo credit: Cornell Lab and NZ DOC.

Thanks for joining me today as we catch up on some of the amazing birds we have been watching together. I look forward to you checking in again!

Pretty Parents Posing

With the news of more Great Horned Owl attacks on Bald Eagle nests (post on that tomorrow), I wanted to stop and find something joyful to celebrate. Certainly the birds have brought so much joy to all of us. I hear from someone every day telling me what the streaming bird cams have meant to them and how they have begun to take an interest in the birds outside their windows. It is still difficult, in most places, to walk freely outside because of the pandemic. I really do appreciate those little notes that you send me. And I am also grateful for news of new nests. I will be bringing some news of those later this week. Birds have connected us all from the Canadian prairies where I am all the way south from me to a PhD student in Brazil, across the Atlantic and Europe to a lovely woman who cared for a raven for five months in Poland, to Australia, Europe, Asia, and back to North America. It really is hard to measure just how much being able to watch the daily activities of our feathered friends has added to our mental well being for more than a year. They have really kept a lot of us sane and grounded. I hope that the love and concern that you have for the birds now will continue to grow and enrich your life even more.

N24. NEFL Eagle nest, 24 February 2021.

It is pretty hard to beat Samson and M15 for being great dads. The pantries are filled up with every type of prey that they can find, they are both great at incubating the eggs, and are there to see their new babies hatch. Lately I have had fun watching Samson trying to get N24 under him to brood while also incubating that egg that we all know will never hatch. He has been so delicate. Sometimes N24 seems to be brooding that egg that winds up all over the nest. It is almost like it is now an ornament that no one knows precisely what to do with. Eventually it will get broken and make its way down between the branches and leaves and become part of the nest.

N24 looking out at the world, fish in the pantry and ‘that egg’. 24 February 2021.

Yesterday Samson seemed to pose for a photographer out of the frame with N24. I don’t think you could ask them to stand any better! N24 is sixteen days old today and already he has really accelerated in growth over the past week. Juvenile feathers are coming in and since he was five days old, Samson has had him crawling up to the pantry to be fed. A wonderfully strong little eaglet, N24 has been flapping its wings. I wonder how long it will be til he walks?

Look at how proud Samson is of his baby! I think this is my most favourite photograph ever of an eaglet with their parent. Even the lighting is perfect.

Samson and N24. 23 February 2021

The Great Horned Owl has been causing disruptions over at the SWFL nest with Harriet and M15. M15 was knocked off of his branch into the nest and the owl almost pulled Harriet off the nest. These disruptions have happened on a daily basis causing worry for the eaglets’ safety.

I love the image below of Harriet standing over the eaglets in that most defiant pose daring that GHOW to mess with her babies!

Harriet watching over E17 (r) and E18 (l), 24 February 2021

I became acquainted with birds as a child. When I was a little girl, my father fed ‘the red birds’ in our back garden. They were actually a family of cardinals that had a nest in our Magnolia tree. Even though they were wild they knew to trust my dad and they would come and take nuts out of his hand. It was magical to watch. My maternal grandfather had been a rancher. He was the last person anyone would have thought would own a bird but he did. It was a little blue budgie bird named Jimmie. That bird was more special than anyone including me and my grandmother. It ate off the side of his plate at lunch and it pretty much had the run of the house. One day when my grandfather was away, Jimmie flew out the front door. My grandmother and I panicked. We wondered if we could buy another one and would my grandfather notice? Of course he would have noticed! Luckily for us, we left the screen door open and Jimmie flew back into the house after being out for a couple of hours. As a child I was taken to the Natural History Museum at the University of Oklahoma to go through the drawers of eggs and stuffed birds and there was always a stop on the way home to feed the ducks. It was not, however, until a very personal encounter with a female Sharp-Shinned Hawk in my own garden in January 2018 that my interest in the welfare of birds began to grow exponentially. I was less than a foot away from her, both of us were looking intently into one another’s eyes. That moment changed my life.

And that magical moment can happen for you, too. If it hasn’t, already.

This morning a pair of Red Tail Hawks, Big Red who is 18 years old and Arthur who will be five this year, are pondering what to do about their nest in Ithaca. The three Js sure made a mess of it hopping and flapping last year. Both of them have been in and out of the nest lately and today they were there together testing the nest bowl and looking around at all the nestorations needed. The time until Big Red lays her first egg is getting closer. We should be looking for that egg around the first day of spring. Gosh, time passes quickly.

Their nest is on a stadium light box on the grounds of Cornell University. In fact, the Cornell Ornithology Labs operate a number of streaming cameras including this one. There is also a very informed chat group that is often moderated by Laura Culley. She has owned falcons and hawks for almost thirty years. She knows so much. And this nest of Big Red and Arthur’s has already changed what we know about the life cycle and behaviour of these hawks.

The link to the Red Tail Hawk streaming cam is:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/red-tailed-hawks/

Big Red and Arthur, 24 February 2021.

Cornell operates a number of its own streaming cams and partners with other agencies. One of those is the New Zealand Department of Conservation. They both support the camera for the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head, NZ. This is a great camera to start watching right now. The chick is unnamed and we will be finding out the gender shortly. I am betting on a boy because right now, he is so big he has to be weighted in a laundry basket and his parents can no longer brood him. He is too big to be under them. The mother, LGL, left him alone for the first time the other day (this is called pre-guard stage) and a red banded non-breeding juvenile kind of roughed the little one up a bit. The juveniles are curious. They have been at sea for five or six years and are returning to find a mate. They haven’t seen little ones before. While it tears at your heart strings when you see these little albatross all alone, around the world there are thousands of others sitting on their nest waiting for their parents to return and feed them. Eventually they will make play nests around their natal nest and begin flapping those big wings of theirs to get their strength for fledging. Weigh ins are Tuesday mornings New Zealand time. On the Canadian prairies, this is Monday 2pm to around 6pm. The link to that streaming camera is:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/royal-albatross/

Royal Cam Chick left alone for the first time in pre guard stage

In about a week to ten days, this little Royal Albatross will be nothing but a ball of fluff. They are so cute and so gentle. It is a very relaxing nest to watch. There is a FB group that brings up to date images and activities surrounding World Albatross Day which is 19 June. I will bring more information on that as it approaches. There are colouring contests for children, cake contests, and eventually, the name the chick contest later in the year. The Royal Cam chick will fledge around the middle of September.

There is joy in the Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest as the snow is finally melting. This eagle mom was encased in snow until recently. We are getting closer to hatch on this nest! There are three eggs under there. I hope there is a lot of prey and that these parents are good at tag team feeding. They are going to need all the coordination they can get!

Snow is finally disappearing. 24 February 2021.

And what a beautiful view from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources nest. This is the nest of that cute little sub-adult male. The snow is disappearing there too making it easier to get prey.

I want to leave you with a big smile on your face. It just goes to show how these birds can just make our moods so much brighter. Look at these two below. That is E17 and E18. They both look like they could simply pop! Or perhaps they are thinking about trying out to be clowns with those big clown feet! How can you not love these two?

E18 closest to the front, E17 toward the back. 22 February 2021.

Take care everyone. Please feel free to let me know of your favourite nest or an experience that changed your life because of birds. I promise to respond. You can leave a comment or you can e-mail me. That e-mail is: maryannsteggles@icloud.com

Thank you to the AEF, the streaming cam at NEFL Eagle nest, SWFL and D. Pritchett Real Estate, Duke Farms, Cornell Ornithology Lab, NZ DOC, the MN DNR.