Cuteness Overload in Bird World

It is Tuesday in New Zealand but on the Canadian prairies it is Monday and it is snowing! There is snow swirling all around and the birds would like nothing better than to come into the house! Poor things.

Today is the day that the NZ Department of Conservation rangers at Taiaroa Head weigh all of the Royal Albatross chicks. Every Tuesday they do this. If any of the chicks are underweight, the rangers will give them a supplemental feeding. Sometimes the winds are not conducive to returning while at other times these largest of NZ sea birds have to travel far to find food. Sadly, some of them also perish in the process. If there is only one parent feeding it is often hard to keep up with the demands of a growing albatross chick. That is when I sing the praises of the NZ DOC – they will do anything to keep the adults and the chicks in a good healthy state.

The Royal Cam chick is a female and she was hatched 80 days ago. Her nest is at a place called ‘The Flat Top’ on Taiaroa Head, a peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand. It is the only breeding colony near human habitation for these albatross. Because raising a chick causes such stress on their bodies, the albatross breed biennially. Indeed, while it might sound like they have two years to recuperate, it will take almost an entire year to raise their chick. The 2021 Royal Cam chick will fledge and begin her five to six years at sea in September. Her parents will return to Taiaroa Head to feed her until she goes on her own journey. The parents will then go to sea only returning the following November when they will breed again. This means that the parents will not see one another for approximately fourteen to fifteen months returning to a specific spot on the planet to breed. It is a real joy and a relief when both return safely. The chick will remain at sea, never touching land, for five to six years before she returns to Taiaroa Head to begin choosing her own mate.

In the past week, the Royal Cam chick has ‘lucked out’. She had two family visits – her parents arrived yesterday around 15:00 and they had flown in together on Saturday to feed her together. It is hard to comprehend how extraordinary these family reunions are until you sit and stare at the ocean where the two go foraging for food for both themselves and the chick. It is vast.

Two months ago, Lime-Green-Lime (LGL), the female and Lime-Green-Black (LGK) were fitted with small backpack satellite transmitters. These transmitters are intended to study their foraging habits. LGL has travelled 11.737 kilometres going to and from the sea in order to feed her chick. This is the graph of those travels:

What a happy family reunion! The nickname for the little chick has been a Maori word for cloud, Kapua. I think you can see why in the image below! Look at all that gorgeous white feathery down.

LGL and LGK both visit and feed their chick. 12 April 2021

Kapua has learned how to beg for food. In fact, she is often impatient during these family visits for good feedings. Sometimes her parents like to stop and visit with one another! Of course, Kapua wants all the attention on her.

The albatross chick has to clack on the parent’s bill to stimulate the regurgitation of food. Here you can see how the parent also has to lean down and the way the chick and parent hold their bills so the precious squid oil will go into the chick and not on the ground!

While her parents are away, Kapua spends time in her nest. She watches the boats go past, makes little play nests around her but never strays, at this age, far from her natal nest in case her parents return with food.

Isn’t she the epitome of cuteness?

When things get too stressful on the other nests, I always return to the Royal Albatross and my faith in the New Zealand government for keeping Kapua safe and healthy.

Yesterday was a milestone for one of the most beautiful Bald eaglets anywhere, Legacy. She is the daughter of Samson and Gabrielle at the Northeast Florida Bald Eagle Nest in Jacksonville, Florida. Legacy has been jumping up and down working her wings and legs to get them strong on the spongy Spanish moss nest. Yesterday, though, Legacy made another milestone. She branched at 3:59. Legacy will continue now to go up on the branches of her natal tree until the point where she will fly from the nest to a branch before she takes her first real flight from the nest which is known as fledging. There she is. Legacy was a little nervous and she made her way down to the nest bowl carefully. Soon, though, she will be jumping up and down to that branch having a lot of fun! She loves the wind beneath her wings.

Legacy is a big strong eaglet. 11 April 2021

Sweet little babies staying warm and dry under Nancy at the MN DNR nest. Looks like they have rain instead of the snow we are experiencing north of them. The little ones are not able to regulate their temperature yet so they need to stay warm and dry!

Little ones staying warm near Nancy, MN DNR Nest. 12 April 2021

Izzi, the peregrine falcon has not left his natal scrape box in Orange, Australia. Yesterday he caught an adult Starling all by himself and was quite loud in announcing it to the world. This image catches his trade mark screeching on entering the scrape box:

The two owlets raised in the Bald Eagle Nest near Newton, Kansas are growing and growing. There are still many who consider them to be ‘cute’! Yesterday their mother, Bonnie, tested them. She left a duck and parts of a rabbit in the nest. She stood on a branch watching to see if they would begin feeding themselves. They didn’t but they will be self-feeding soon!

Bonnie is feeding Tiger and Lily duck and rabbit. 11 April 2021

And it is so sweet. Louis is on the nest at Loch Arkaig early to add a few sticks. He stayed on the perch branch for a long time waiting for Aila to return.

In 2017, Louis was given the nickname ‘Lonesome Louis’ because he paced back and forth on the nest when his mate of ten years did not return. The pair had failed to breed in 2016 and people were hopeful that 2017 would be different. Louis waited for three weeks and then a new female appeared. It was Aila meaning ‘bringer of light’ in Finnish. The pair raised one chick in 2017 and he was called Lachlan meaning from the lakes. Sadly, a Pine Marten raided their nest and ate the eggs in 2018. In 2019, the couple had two chicks fledge – Mallie and Rannoch and in 2020, there was the famous trio – Dottie, Vera, and Captain. Everyone is hoping for a quick return of Aila so that Louis is not ‘lonesome’ again!

Louis looks for Aila. 12 April 2021.

There are two other updates without images. Iris at the Hellsgate Osprey nest has been doing nestorations and feeding herself. Her mate, Louis, who also has another nest with Star at the Baseball park has visited twice – each time mating with Iris. The last time was 18:16 on 11 April when he made a quick visit. Louis brings Iris nothing – and yes, he is a bird but I continue to say how sad this is for the oldest female Osprey in the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if she was treated like the royalty she is? And the other is the state of the Achieva Osprey Nest in Dunedin, Florida. Jack the father has not been seen for awhile and everyone is beginning to wonder if he did not die or get severely injured. The thunderstorms have been very severe. Yesterday, there were two fish in the morning and Tiny Tot did get fed from both. He has not eaten now for more than 26 hours. Diane brought a small fish this morning that partially fed 1 and 2 and she has gone out and caught another smaller fish. Right now the two older osplets are eating. There may not be enough for Tiny. She will have to go out again if she is to eat and feed Tiny. There have been rumours about a hawk in the area. So, once again, we are at a tragic point this season on this nest. Just when Tiny Tot was getting full for a couple of days and getting his stamina and health back, then the storms come. Diane cannot protect her osplets and fish at the same time. She has not eaten either and I hope that whatever threats are around the nest are gone and that Diane catches one of her whooper catfish so that everyone can be full.

UPDATE 2PM CDT: Jack has arrived at the nest with a fish at 2:41:31 EDT. Diane was still feeding 1 and 2 on the fish she brought in – her second of the day. Maybe Tiny Tot will get some food. Glad Jack is OK.

Thank you for joining me today – our wintery weather will be here for three days if the predictions are correct. Not a great time for my walks!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my screen shots: Cornell Bird Cams and the NZ DOC, Farmer Derek, the NEFLorida Bald Eagle Cam and the AEF, Woodland Trust and People Post Lottery, Sturt University at Orange and Cilla Kinross, and the MN DNR.

Name the Chick Contest

The New Zealand Department of Conservation have opened up the contest for the naming of the Royal cam chick of 2021. You can enter, too. Here is the poster and the URL for additional information:

This year’s Royal Cam chick is a female. She is the daughter of Lime-Green-Lime (LGL) and Lime-Green-Black (LGK). The parents are named after the coloured ring bands on their legs. Only the Royal Cam chicks get an official Maori name. In fact, in 2019, LGL and LGK were the parents of Karere who was the royal cam chick that year.

This year’s chick hatched on 24 January 2021. The eggs are removed from the nest near hatch and placed in an incubator. A dummy egg is put under the parent at the time. This is to ensure that no fly strike kills the newborn. When the chick is returned, the dummy egg is removed, the nest is sprayed with a substance that will not harm the birds, and the chick is placed under the parent. The rangers at Taiaroa Head do many checks on the health and safety of both the parents and the chick daily.

The royal cam chick just hatched in the incubator. 24 January 2021. @Ranger Julia NZ DOC

She is the sweetest, soft as a cloud gorgeous indigo eyed sea bird!

The Royal Cam chick and her beautiful indigo eyes. 9 April 2021

Here she is getting a feeding from LGK, her dad, today:

The royal cam chick is tapping at her father’s bill to stimulate feeding. 9 April 2021

From the time this beautiful fluff ball was born, she was taught to tap the parent’s bill in order to stimulate them to regurgitate the oily squid food for the little one. When the chick is very small the parents will take turns staying with it and feeding it little bits many times per day. As the chick gets older, the meals are larger but farther a part. After about six weeks, the chick is in the pre-guard stage where the parent leaves it alone for awhile. Then both parents are out foraging for food. This chick is now left alone and the parents only return to feed her.

LGK is leaning down so he can feed his royal cam chick. 9 April 2021

This year’s royal cam chick’s parents, LGL and LGK, are fitted with satellite transmitters that show where they are fishing. The red is for LGL, the mother and the blue is for LGK, the father. The piece of land jutting out about a third of the way up from the bottom is Taiaroa Head. You can see the point where the land and take off. That is their chick!

The NZ DOC rangers on Taiaroa Head weigh the chicks every Tuesday. In the event that a parent has been away for an extended period, the staff will give the chicks a supplemental feeding should it be required.

You can watch the Royal Cam chick here:

Watching the comings and goings at the Royal Albatross nest is the total opposite of watching the Achieva Osprey nest. If the Albatross chicks get too hot, there is a sprinkler system to help cool them off. The rangers often switch out the eggs should one couple lose their chick and another parent not return. Everything is done for the welfare of the these sea birds. There are no worries about whether or not the little one will get enough to eat! It is recognized that human impact on the climate, specifically, and the planet overall (over fishing, not taking care and albatross caught as bycatch) has made these things necessary. There is no debate, no paper work that takes days – the rangers are ready to go should anything be required.

Thank you for joining me today. Look up the guidelines for the name the chick contest and then check out Maori names and their meanings. There are lots of great prizes and it is a lot of fun. As we get near to World Albatross Day in June there will also be contests for children – and cake contests we can all enter!

Thank you to the NZ Department of Conservation and the Cornell Bird Lab for their streaming cam and Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg. That is where I get my screen shots. Thank you also for caring about your wildlife NZ. It warms my heart.

ACHIEVA OSPREY UPDATE: Tiny had 2 feedings today, 8 April before 10:30 am. Another fish came in at 7:08:20. It was medium sized. Tiny kept his head down til he knew the bigger 2 had eaten. He went over to mom but there was no fish left for him or her. Both are very hungry. The mother brought in two of the three fish today.

In the image below you can see that Tiny is up by mom, Diane, but nothing left for either one of them. Hoping for more and bigger fish tomorrow. Sad situation. I would really like to understand the ‘why’. I just looked at the Venice Golf and Country Club Osprey nest with its three and each one is great. What is happening on this nest? and why?

Tiny has finally been able to get up to mom but there is not a scrap of food left for him or her. 8 April 2021.

Time to check in with the birds

Wonder what Port Lincoln’s female Osprey fledgling is up to today? Solly was born on a barge tied at Port Lincoln. She is 163 days old today. For research purposes, Solly was fitted with a satellite tracking systems. You can see it on her back in the picture below taken by C. Crowder at Streaky Bay, Australia several weeks ago.

Solly at Streaky Bay. Photo by C Crowder posted on Port Lincoln Osprey FB Page.

The transmitter has worked perfectly and early on Solly’s travels away from her natal nest changed what was known about the movements of the Eastern Osprey. Solly travelled north to Streaky Bay and then further to Eba Anchorage and on to Perlubie and then on to Haslam. At that point she turned back, spent several days back in Eba Anchorage and today is back in Streaky Bay.

These are the latest satellite images of Solly’s tracking. In the images below, you can see Solly’s movements. She has a central place of interest and from there she flies out to fish.

Solly seems to love this house for some reason. @ Port Lincoln Osprey
Solly’s movements around the house at Streaky Bay. @ Port Lincoln Osprey

The most fascinating information coming from these satellite images is that Solly has chosen to stay close to people. The image below shows the house where Solly spends much of her time.

Solley loves the trees around this house! @Port Lincoln Osprey

Just think how much our knowledge of these large birds is changing with the introduction of satellite tracking devices, light weight enough to fit without harming the bird.

“Golden Eagle” by Just chaos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In 2018, satellite trackers became part of a criminal investigation into the loss of a Golden Eagle. Raptor Persecution UK investigated a ‘highly suspicious’ disappearance of Fred, a golden eagle, in a nest in the Scottish Borders. Scotland is trying to reintroduce Golden Eagles and Fred was one of a breeding pair in that region. At the time, investigators thought that the Golden Eagle was killed and the body and its tracker dumped in the North Sea to hide the evidence. The Environment Secretary for Scotland, Roseanna Cunningham, said that they were taken this disappearance ‘very seriously.’

The Golden Eagle was in the Pentland Hills before its tag signal was lost. That signal was then picked up on 26 January 2018 off the coast of Scotland near St Andrews. The problem is this. Golden Eagles do not, of their own accord, fly out over large bodies of water. So what happened? Did someone accidentally kill the eagle and want to dispose of the evidence? was the eagle stolen and the transmitter destroyed? Both are sad possibilities.

“snowy Pentlands 02” by byronv2 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Royal Chick is too big to brood. @ NZ DOC and Cornell Labs

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand gave permission and provided two solar powered GPS satellite trackers to follow the parents of the Royal Albatross Cam Chick at Taiaroa Head, New Zealand. Those Royal Albies with the trackers are Lime-Green-Black (father, LGK) and Lime-Green-Lime (mother, LGL). The twenty gram trackers were carefully and quickly attached to the feathers on the back of these large sea birds. Like many other trackers, they will continue to operate until the Royal Albatross molts in about a year.

Lime Green Black has just had his solar powered satellite transmitter installed. @NZ DOC and Cornell Labs.

What do trackers tell us about the birds? The Department of Conservation is hoping that the tracking will help them understand more about the locations where the birds hunt for food, the legal and illegal fishing activities that attract these birds (and sadly some become bycatch), and how climate change is impacting them. It is getting hotter and hotter in the Southern Hemisphere where these lovely seabirds live. How can people and government agencies support the Albatross long term survival? That is another question the researchers want to ask. Tracking information will be shared on the FB page of the Royal Albatross group on a regular basis.

Below is an image of the last posted tracking information on Lime Green Lime, the Royal Cam chick’s mother.

@NZ Doc provides tracking images for the Royal Cam Albatross FB Page

You might enjoy the comings and goings of the Royal Albatross at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. These are extremely social birds and the little fluff ball who will be given a Maori name before it fledges is now in the ‘pre guard’ stage. This means that the parents will leave it alone for periods of time easing it in to when both parents will go to sea to forage to feed their baby. As the chick grows so does its needs for more and more squid shakes! The Royal Cam is on twenty-four hours a day every day of the week. You can access it here:

https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/albatrosses/royal-albatross-toroa/royal-cam/meet-the-royal-family/

“Dunedin. Taiaroa Head at the end of Otago Peninsula. The buildings on the headland are the Royal Albatross Centre. The only mainland albatross nesting site in the world.” by denisbin is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Thank you for joining me. There will be late updates today on N24 who is fighting Avian Pox. Let’s all hope its immune system is working to its fullest. N24 had a good breakfast today.