As we prepare for the 2021 Royal Albatross to fledge off Taiaroa Head, New Zealand, it is a good time to think about these beautiful sea birds.
Last year I came across this document, The Tears of the Albatross. It gives you the history, the mythology, and the environmental challenges that the Albatross face. It is an excellent read and I want to include it again. You will learn so much about these magnificent sea birds.
As far as I know Tiaki is still with us. The remaining chicks of which there are 26 at last count could fledge anytime.
This was the view of the camera installed by Cornell Bird Lab and the NZ DOC so that we could watch Tiaki as she grew from a hatchling to a fledgling. It seems Tiaki is off around the bend or down the hill! It would be so nice if we could see her fledge! Come home Taiki! We want to say goodbye.
It is a quiet day in Bird World. The female at Port Lincoln doesn’t seem to have a pip in the first egg yet although it could be anytime. The Bald Eagles in the US are bringing in stick and twigs and refurbishing the nests from last year. There is no confirmation of Iris one way or another. Aran was seen at 13:47 tucking into a nice fish and at 17:00 in the Glaslyn Valley so he is still with us. The Peregrine falcons continue to incubate eggs. We are just about at the half way mark to fledge.
Thank you so much for being with me today. Take care, stay safe. I hope you enjoy The Tears of the Albatross.
Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my images: Cornell Bird Lab and NZ DOC.
WBSE 27 and 28, the two little sea eaglets in the old Ironbark Nest in Sydney’s Olympic Park, had an early morning breakfast of bird.
Ah, just guess who was the first one up at the breakfast table? If you said, 28 you are absolutely right.
The little bird filled up their empty tummies but it wasn’t big enough -like a grand fish -to fill their crops, too. After breakfast the pair did some wing flapping, standing, and attempts at walking. They still need their wing tips to help with their balance.
Look at the tail that is growing on WBSE27! 27 is the one flapping its wings below.
Well, the Australian Magpie was not giving the White-bellied Sea Eagles a break today. For a couple of hours after feeding the eaglets, Lady defended the nest ducking and honking as the Magpie swooped down trying to hit her.
In the image below, Lady is honking at the Magpie.
Here is a good image of the bird as it goes to land on a branch of the nest tree. This bird is cheeky – they must taste terrible or Lady could have that Magpie for lunch! I would not blame her.
In this image you can see the Magpie caught in flight right above Lady’s head.
Here the Magpie is flying around Lady. It is right over her head.
Dad came to help Lady. All of the big raptors – at the top of the food chain – attract all the small birds and owls. It is surprising how much physical damage these small feathered creatures can do. Last year, BooBook Owl injured Lady’s eye. They can, of course, knock the eaglets out of the nest.
Tiaki looks out to the world that awaits her. Her name means protector of the land and the seas. I hope that they also protect her.
As Albies fly around her in the strong winds, Tiaki raises her wings. She will be off on her big adventure soon.
The chicks are all hovering in the strong winds. In a blink they will be gone. I think I put down 12 September on the guessing game but it could just be any time. Quarry Chick fledged 3 days ago.
Tiaki received her GPS tracker today. Ranger Sharyn Bronte said, “A wider study of the entire Northern Royal Albatross is being conducted this year. And in a first for a Royalcam chick Tiaki as received a tracker. Trackers have deployed on northern royals on the Chathams where 99% of the world population of this species breeds.We are extremely lucky to have 20g devices are available to track LGK, LGL and Tiaki. Although LGL’s device failed it has provided valuable data. Devices are extremely light compared to the weight of the bird and attached to back feathers. These feathers molt within a year and the device will fall off. The device is solar powered and will remotely send data until molting.”
If you read my column regularly, you will know that I am a big supporter of GPS trackers. I also support Darvic bands. Much new information on the migrations, winter and summer breeding grounds – and yes, deaths, are revealed amongst other things. Studying birds or watching them in their nests is never for the faint of heart. Their lives are full of challenges, most placed on them by humans.
Last year, a lovely Polish woman wrote to me to tell me she didn’t know how I could be so calm when ‘bad things’ happened to the birds. Those were not her exact words but that is what she meant. I was not the least bit offended. The truth is I feel for each and every one of them. That caring is inside a bigger box that is now labelled ‘ avian activist’. I want to help stop those things that cause the birds injury or death when it can be avoided. Rodenticides, sticky paper traps, lead shot, lead bullets, lead in fishing equipment, fishing line, fishing nets, windows, garbage dumped on the roads, habitat loss, wild fires caused by arson, electrocution, bread fed to the birds —— and simple neglect or oversight. Like having emergency contact numbers for the streaming cams where there is no 24/7 chat with knowledgable moderators.
I am working on a way to remember Malin, the Osprey nestling at the Collins Marsh Nature Centre, whose life was needlessly cut short. The Malin Code. Osprey streaming cams that follow The Malin Code would have either 24/7 moderators who can access emergency help immediately or emergency numbers at the top of the historical information on the nests. Individuals who are in charge of parks or areas with nests would be trained to recognize the physical signs (11 of them) from food begging to alerting and the 8 vocalizations. It is the least requirement. The other is that they pay attention to what is happening on the nest. They need to know the difference between a juvenile and an adult. Etc. Whew. Yes, I get worked up. If you can think of anything else that these organizations should be doing, let me know. Don’t be shy! At the end of the year, the streaming cam that best implemented The Malin Code would get a donation, big enough to motivate them to do what is right for the birds.
OK. On to what is happening in some of the scrape boxes:
Diamond and Xavier spent some time in the scrape box together today. There was a bit of a conversation between Diamond and Xavier. I need to learn to speak falcon.
There is a real soft spot in my heart for the little male Peregrine Falcon in Melbourne. Maybe it is the ledge where he comes scurrying in to take his turn incubating the eggs or when he brings prey to the eyases.
He is the cutest thing and makes the biggest messes plucking pigeons right in the nest with the eyases. But, last year, I noticed that those three girls really knew what to do with a feathered bird. They were not shy. By the time they fledged, they were professional pigeon pluckers. Can you say that fast 10x?
What a cutie! Our stealth raptor.
Have you ever wondered about the black faces of the Peregrine Falcons? Did you know that the size and intensity of the black varies by region? Have a read.
Cody and the lads down in Kisatchie National Forest have done a great job with the camera for the Bald Eagle Nest of Anna and Louis. Cody says that the sound is going to be fantastic.
Isn’t that a gorgeous sunset over Lake Kincaid? Such a lovely spot for a Bald Eagle nest —- and, of course, there is the lake that is stocked with some really nice fish. Couldn’t get much better. Everyone is just waiting for the Eagles to return.
Speaking of Bald Eagles returning, both Samson and Gabby are at home in Jacksonville and Harriet and M15 are in Fort Myers. All that reminds me I have to check and see what is happening at Captiva.
I want to leave you with an image of Tiny Little. She is one of the fledgling Ospreys in my long time study of third hatch survivors. She has a Darvic ring-Blue 463. Here she is as a wee one.
Blue 35 is feeding Tiny Little by herself. Look at ‘big nasty sister’ in the middle. It really is thanks to excellent parenting that Tiny survived – and became the dominant bird. Gosh, I wish she had a tracker. Is she at Poole Harbour? has she made it to Brittany? will she go to The Gambia? or Senegal? or Southern Spain? My ‘wish list’ includes getting someone to look for her if I can’t be there myself during the winter of 2022.
That’s it for me tonight. Tomorrow I am off in search of a Green Heron. Take care everyone. Stay safe. Be kind. Remember: Life is for living.
Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I take my screen shots: 367 Collins Street Falcons, Sea Eagles @ Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre, The Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle Cam, The Falcon Cam Project Charles Sturt University at Orange and Cilla Kinross, Cornell Bird Lab and NZ Doc Royal Albatross Cam and FB Page and The Cumbrian Wildlife Trust and the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest.
It is 6 September in Australia and the Royal Cam chick, Tiaki, is 225 days old. She is the daughter of LGL (Lime Green Lime) and LGK (Lime Green Black). They have been together as a couple since 2017. Their very first chick was also a Royal cam chick. Karere hatched in 2019 and successfully fledged. They laid their egg this season on 4 November 2020 and Tiaki hatched on 24 January. It looks like they will also have a successful fledge this year! Congratulations LGL and LGK!
It is early morning. Tiaki is not at her nest. She is looking out at what is happening around her. It is going to be a gorgeous day with lots of wind.
Tiaki has been really exercising her wings and has hovered quite high on several occasions.
Lady Hawk caught Tiaki’s first hovering – 3 weeks ago – in a short video.
Here she is today spreading those magnificent wings. There are only little pieces of the baby down left.
Her ultimate destination – the sea.
If the average age at fledge is 232 days then it is possible that in a week, Tiaki will begin her big adventure. She will remain on the open seas only returning to Taiaro Head in 5-6 years. It will be wonderful to welcome back and to watch her do all those amazing courtship dances with the other juveniles. For those of you that adore this lovely little albatross, stay tuned to the screen. This gal really wants to fly.
It is 15:32 and Tiaki is away from her nest. It is so windy. I wonder if a parent will arrive to feed her?
Dad, LGK – Lime Green Black- had been at sea for quite some time. He has now returned on 3 and 5 September to feed his squealing daughter. I love this video that Lady Hawk posted of LGK’s visit and the feeding. Note the sky calls! And also keep on the lookout for the neighbouring chick, SSTrig. This little corner is quite the soap opera!
I just went to check on Tiaki again and look – someone is flying in. Is it LGK or LGL, the mom?
Here comes Tiaki calling to Dad so he won’t leave without giving her that wonderful squid shake. She is moving as fast as she can.
Tiaki acts like she has eaten in weeks. She is so excited and you could hear her whee, whee for quite a distance.
Tiaki gets a nice short feeding – and she always wants more and more. Dad tries to oblige her.
Tiaki doesn’t want Dad to go. Since 3 September, LGK has been in three times to feed his daughter. That is a good record.
I wonder if he knows that his time with her is growing shorter and shorter. Perhaps he will fish close to the nest and maybe fly in when mom is there, too. Wouldn’t it be grand to have a family reunion one more time? Absolutely.
Dad has stopped for a rest a little ways from Tiaki. Tiaki is in the middle of the photo and LGK is the head to the right of Tiaki. It is almost impossible to just sit with Tiaki now. She gets excited and wants more and more food. Sometimes LGK returns to do a second feeding after he has rested but, since he was just here yesterday maybe he has fed Tiaki all the squid he has.
Perhaps he will wait awhile and see if the strong winds bring Mom in?
Several times, LGK, Dad, flapped his wings at the edge of the cliff as if to show Taiki that it was a good place to fledge.
A few times I thought he had left but Tiaki would still be doing some clacking. Then dad’s wing would appear. It was hard to know precisely when he took off there were so many birds flying around.
Oh, my. Look what is happening. Is this the other parent flying in? I was not able to confirm the leg band but the camera followed the bird and we could see a chick being fed. I sure thought it was Tiaki. Hopefully someone else will be able to confirm all of this. If it was LGL then her and LGK missed one another by minutes.
The parents will not know when Tiaki fledges – unless of course they are there. I wonder if this has ever happened? They will return a few times to feed their chick and then when they cannot find her, they will take off. The couple will spend the next 14 months on the open sea building up their energy and feeding themselves. They will both meet here on Taiaroa Head in November of 2022 to begin another season in the hope of having a third chick that survives to fledge.
It is near the end of the season on Taiaroa Head. To date there have been no fledges but they will begin soon. You can still join the action, here’s the link:
I know that so many of you love the Albatross. Did you know that 15 of the 22 species of Albatross are facing extinction? It is because of the long haul fishing trawlers. Albatrosses feed on the surface of the ocean. You can see them flying about the fishing vessels who put out fish head and guts as the process the fish on board. This attracts the Osprey who get caught by the cables and are dragged under the boat and drown. The Albatross also get caught on the baited hooks of the boats. It is horrible and it doesn’t have to happen. Please check out the information on the Albatross Task Forde to fead all of the information and the solutions. There are things you can do to help!
I am so proud to be a Canadian because it was, at the urging of Canada, that the United Nations declared 8 June as World Ocean Day. It is a time to increase not only our awareness of the environment but also to educate us so that we can take action to protect the valuable resource that is our oceans.
Why are oceans important to all life on earth?
Scientists believe that if we do not curtail our use of plastics then by 2050 there will be more plastic than water in our oceans. Think about that for a moment.
Already artists are taking action to educate people. In the Philippines, a 70 foot whale was found on the beach dead – full of plastic. Starving to death and unable to eat. Greenpeace Philippines sponsored an art project, Washed Up, so that the people on their island nation would understand the importance of not using plastic. Here is a really good video and article about that sculpture and its impact.
Much of the plastic flows through the rivers that empty into the oceans. As a result, each of us needs to think about what we can do to help.
When I think of the ocean, I always think of the albatross – these largest of sea birds, gentle giants if you will. Here is the beautiful Taiki, the Royal Albatross Cam Chick of 2021, daughter of Lime Green Black and Lime Green Lime at her nest on Taiaroa Head, New Zealand.
Did you know that an albatross is, on average, killed every 5 minutes by the large fleet industrial fishing factories? That single fact inspired ceramic artist and professor, Julia Galloway, to create a series of Endangered Species Jars. Galloway left the funerary urns empty in the hope that people would turn the tragedy facing us environmentally around in a positive way.
Galloway’s first installation on endangered species focused on the area of New England. Isn’t this a beautiful piece of porcelain? It is the Endangered Loggerhead Turtle jar. Many of the same issues that impact the sea turtles are also responsible for the killing of the albatross.
As consumers, you can demand sustainable seafood – real sustainable sea food- when you do your shopping. Recycle all the plastic that you have and try and find ways not to use plastic – laundry detergent in paper strips, dryer balls, shopping bags – only to name a few. Switch to stainless steel, a completely recycled product. Educating children about the importance of the ocean to all life is paramount as they are the future – and set a good example as an adult for them in terms of your use of plastic and your actions as a consumer. It is believed that if everyone cut their purchases by 15% this would have a major impact on the environment. Maybe try to not buy anything new for a specific period of time – why not?
Support the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. Here is a link to their website:
One of the biggest threats to the Albatross is that of being bycatch in industrial fishing. Here is a great document to help you understand what bycatch is and how easy and inexpensive it is for these large factories on our seas to eliminate it.
That is a lot to take in but I do hope that you learned something. I hope that you enjoyed seeing how artists are trying to use their work to educate us. Perhaps their messages will resonate with more people than the politicians. So many times I just turn them off. Someone needs to help us understand how important it is to change our habits – stop buying things – save that money! So tomorrow on World Ocean Day stop and think about what you can do – every action counts no matter how small – to help the oceans and, in turn, all life on earth.
Thank you for joining me today. Stay safe and well!
Thank you to the Cornell Bird Lab and the NZ DOC for their streaming cam. That is where I took the screen shot of Taiki. The featured image is Lunan Bay on the coast of Scotland facing the North Sea.I would also like to thank Julia Galloway for allowing me to use the image of her porcelain jar.
What do you do when you are anxious? Do you twist your hair? pick at your fingernails? doodle? I tend to clean house. You can always tell if there is something worrying me by the state of the floors. My mother was the “cleaniest” person I have ever met. You could eat off of any part of the floor, walls, any part of the bathroom – it was spotless and sanitary! I recall when I gave pottery lessons in rural Manitoba that one of the students, the most lovely woman who was moving to Williams Lake, BC, gave me a book as a parting gift. I can see the cover – it was yellow – and inside it had a lot of funny sayings another potter had jotted down over the years. One stuck out, “You can certainly eat off my floor, there are the Cheerios over there, the grapes over there…” etc. you get the drift. My floors are not that bad but they certainly would not stand the scrutiny of my mother all the time!
So today I have been avoiding thinking about the Glaslyn Osprey Nest of Mrs G and Aran in Wales. Instead of the floors, I have actually picked lilacs and my house smells like I am living outside in the middle of the bushes. It is hard to put Glaslyn out of one’s head. Mrs G has not eaten since Thursday – or perhaps Wednesday night. Thursday she had a fish tail under her that she fed to Bob 1 and 2. 3 wasn’t there yet. The weather turned, the Crows attacked, and here we are today. Aran has lost primary feathers and is not able to fish. He has been flying around the nest keeping Osprey intruders at bay. Mrs G has not removed the body of Bob 1 who died yesterday of starvation. It is truly a sad situation and unless fish jumped out of the sky, I simply cannot see the little ones surviving. Indeed, the one with the biggest chance could be the youngest. On top of this, Bob 3 at the Loch of the Lowes Nest is quite small compared to Bob 1 and 2 and Nessie is inexperienced. —— I do like a Walt Disney ending but, gosh, it is the real world and it just shows how much weather and climatic changes impact these fish eagles.
My mood is always made lighter by several other nests. So let us have a look at them. With Tiny Tot back on the nest, he has been quite the character today. I think Diane has a ‘soft spot’ for Tiny. After 2 had his fish this morning, Diane brought Tiny a whopper. He was still eating it an hour later. Then tonight, as I write this, the two of them are just finishing up another fish together. Earlier, Tiny had rushed 2 to try and steal a fish that hit the nest around 4pm. Tiny sure gave it a go and I am proud of him even if he didn’t succeed. What he decided to do was to do a fly around the nest and gosh, I figured out how to record it. So easy! Now I can share it with you. Thirty-three seconds of Tiny Tot flying. He has now done this several times. It will strengthen his wings but he won’t get lost! This kiddo is one smart cookie. After Tiny Tot leaves the nest, it will be a nano second or two til he comes around on the right. He will look like a small bird, he will turn to the left before the trees and head back. Beautiful take off and landing.
Tiny is simply one gorgeous, creative, persistent, patient, and alert fledgling. He will always have a place in my heart. He ranks up there with WBSE 26 for tenacity!
I also spent some time watching Big Red. Gosh, she just looks so adoringly at the Ks, just like she does every clutch, every year. She simply glows being a ‘bird mom’. The Ks are starting to stand and become mobile. Today two were interested in small bits of prey on the nest and each and everyone of them did not want their ears cleaned! The ears are on the sides of their head but they are not covered with feathers yet. Because of that, Big Red has to make sure that they are clean – just like my mother’s house – so that their hearing is not impaired. None of the Ks appreciates it when she does this! Take a good long look at them. We are three and a half weeks away from fledge!
Here is the oldest one, K1, standing. My how clean those pantaloons are.
Wonder if I can eat this???????? That little dimple, by the way, behind the eye is the ear.
Big Red is telling K2 to just hold still, it will only take a minute! K3 is waiting its turn.
Taiki, the Royal Albatross chick on Taiaroa Head, New Zealand is nothing short of adorable. Her names means ‘protector and carer of the land, the sky, and the sea’. She looks like a big fluffy cotton ball. All that fluff will begin to come off to reveal the huge wings she will need to stay flying over the ocean for five or six years before returning to land. Yes, you read that right. Once Taiki fledges, she will not return here to her natal nesting area – until she is five or six years old. She will return as a juvenile in December then and begin looking for a mate! That can also take a few years.
Today, Taiki is 121 days old. She is halfway to the average fledge of 240 days. In August Taiki will begin to hover and really put those wings through their paces. For now she does her exercises while she waits for a parent to fly in and feed her.
Here is a great little video, 14 minutes, of the parent arriving – I believe it is her dad, Lime Green Black – to give her a feeding of squid.
Oh, I hope you have enjoyed having a little glimpse at three amazing species of birds – the Ospreys, the Red Tail Hawks, and the Southern Royal Albatross. Each are at a different stage in their development. Thank you so much for joining me. I would like to be able to promise you that there will be good news from the UK Osprey nests tomorrow but, I can’t. The winds are whipping around and no one knows how long it will take Aran to heal so that he can fish.
Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my screen shots and videos: Achieva Credit Union, Cornell Bird Lab and RTH, and Cornell Bird Lab and NZ DOC.
The 38 day old Royal Cam chick at Taiaroa Head is having some time on its own as the ‘pre guard’ stage sets in. The parents are leaving their little one alone for various short periods. The satellite trackers on both Lime-Green-Lime (LGL, mom) and Lime-Green-Black (LGK, dad) indicate that they are fishing just off the shores of this peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand.
LGL gave a sky call as she approached her beautiful little chick. The Royal chick had a really good feeding before LGL headed out to sea to fish.
After LGL left to go fishing around 9:30 NZ time, the little one kept itself busy playing with the nest, preening, looking around, and enjoying the sprinklers at the NZ DOC bring out to keep the chicks cool. This helps the chicks to not get stressed by the 25 degree Celsius heat (77 F).
And sometimes, when you are all alone, you have to defend your nest in case a stranger walks by! As the stranger approaches, the Royal Cam chick stands alert and begins clacking its bill mimicking precisely what its parents would do.
Chick is on alert!
And here comes Henry the Heron! Henry lives on Taiaroa Head and loves to photo bomb the Royal cam chick! Sometimes Henry even does a kind of snake dance with its neck. Henry would never hurt the little chick but he does love to come for a visit to check in on the little one. We will see him often before the fledge in September.
Where’s Solly? Solly is the 163 day old Eastern Osprey that was born on a barge in Port Lincoln. We checked in on Solly a couple of days ago and she was heading south from Eba Anchorage back to the Streaky Bay area. Well, Solly is now back in Eba Anchorage! Solly spent the night in the same marshy area as she did on her previous visit. You can see the green pin in the satellite image below. From that central point Solly has been busy going out fishing. It is always so nice to know where the birds are. These satellite trackers are quite amazing.
It is early March. The White Bellied Sea Eagles whose nest is in the forest of Sydney’s Olympic Park will not be actively undertaking nestorations for a few months but already they have come back to the nest to do some inspections. I wonder if Daisy the Duck making a deep hole for her eggs will cause them any extra work? Last night the bonded couple, Lady and Dad, spent their night sleeping on the ‘parent branch’ of the natal nest after checking out the condition of the nest earlier and making a list of what they needed to do.
The Kakapo Recovery had sad news. Uri was taken into care because he was unwell. He had lost weight and the team felt that he would improve significantly with regular food and some checkups. Uri’s blood tests looked good and he had gained weight. But Uri seriously did not like being in a building with humans. The decision was made to return him to the island and to provide supplementary feedings and check ups for him there. When the team showed up this morning to do their check up, Uri had died. Uri had no outward signs or symptoms of Aspergillosis, a fungal disease that affects Kakapo. A necroscopy will be performed to determine the precise cause of death. There are currently 205 Kakapo.
Aren’t they cute? Three little Kakapo chicks.
This is a link about the disease and the treatment that you might find interesting. The Kakapo in the video is such a sweetie as are all of these non-flying parrots. Everyone is working hard for their care and welfare.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
As the sun sets, Samson gets into position to keep watch during the night.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And here is the full reveal below. Great mom. That shell is cleaned up and the little one looks really healthy!
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.
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!
How could anyone forget about Lime-Green-Black and his beautiful baby chick? One of the countries that I often applaud is New Zealand. I have a good friend and colleague who lives there and he is quick to say that New Zealanders love their birds! He wishes they would do more to clean up the coal industry but, he is thrilled at what they do for their wildlife. And that is where we are going to begin today: the Royal Albatross Colony on Taiaroa Head. It is on the southern Island near Dunedin.
It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere. And we are checking on the Royal Albatross couple, LGL and LGK. I know. What is with all the letters, right? The New Zealand Department of Conservation puts coloured bands on the Royal Albatross. They have specific date ranges for the beginning colour so that the Rangers can tell immediately the approximate age of the sea bird they are trying to identify. So our couple is: Lime-Green-Lime (female) and Lime-Green-Black (male). You might think that Black should be B but that goes to Blue. So K is used for Black.
LGL and LGK have been a mated pair since 2017. Albatross mate for life. If one dies, then it is hoped that they find a new mate. And sometimes, there are divorces! Or Threesomes. It can get complicated. But, generally, we consider them a mated pair for life which can be very long, into the 60s and 70s.
LGL laid their egg on November 7, 2020. The parents each took turns incubating the egg so that the other could go out to sea to feed. The incubation period is approximately 80 days. The NZ DOC rangers check the eggs early to find out if they are fertile and they continue to check them. Near to hatch, they check closely as they will remove the egg and replace it with a dummy egg. This allows the chick to hatch in an incubator. It is returned to the parent once it has hatched and is dry. At that time the Rangers sprayed the nest with an insecticide so that no fly larvae can get on the wee one. The insecticide is not harmful. Until such a time as the chick can regulate its own temperature and it is safe to leave it on the nest by itself, the parents will continue their rotation. One will keep the chick warm and feed it while the other is out to sea fishing. This nesting period lasts ten months. The laying the egg and the nesting period is so hard on the Albatross that they only have one chick every 2 years. As it happens, LGL and LGK were the Royal Cam parents in 2019 and their little one received a Maori name, Karere. It means ‘Messenger’.
I bet you are wondering about the names. Normally, the people of New Zealand submit possible names for the Royal cam chick. A number are selected for a final judging and a committee picks one of these. And that becomes the name. The individual who submitted the winning name gets a trip to see the Royal cam chick in person. In practice, only Royal cam chicks get names but they also get coloured bands. In 2020, because of the pandemic, no one could see the chick so the decision was made to open the naming contest to everyone in the world. The winning name for the female, known fondly as Pippa, was Atawhai. Atawhai means ‘kindness and caring’ in Maori.
One thing that I noted in checking the history of this Royal Cam couple is that both of their chicks hatched on the same day, 24 January. Karere in 2019 and this little one in 2021.
Look at that beautiful little baby being fed by its dad, LGK?
The parent teaches them to feed by tapping on their bill. In the image above you can see the chick with its bill inside the parents being fed a nice ‘squid shake’. It does not take long for the chick to figure out the tapping so that they can stimulate the parent to feed them. The parents regurgitate an oil squid liquid from a second stomach for the feedings.
In the image below, LGK (the male) is looking on as the chick is weighed. Remember that the chick hatched on 24 January. The weighing that you are seeing was 2 February. It is normal that the chick would be weighed inside a small sock. If you look carefully you will see a linen bag in front of the elbow of the ranger doing the weigh in. The chick needed a bigger bag! Oh, my goodness. This little one is growing so fast. Only nine days old and already needing to be upsized.
Now, everyone likes to speculate on the gender of the chick and there are also games played on how how much weight the chick has gained over the week. I am going right out there and saying that this is a little boy. Male albatrosses are bigger than the females. (It is the opposite for raptors such as Bald Eagles, Peregrine falcons, Red tail Hawks, etc.). We should know in about a week.
Any chick weighing more than 500 grams will only be weighed once a day, not twice. So, what I know is that this little one is more than 500 grams but it is only being weighed once. Someone mentioned 660 grams or 1.4 lbs. But I have to verify that.
This is an image from the weighing yesterday. You can see the linen bag instead of the sock much more clearly.
The proud parent looks on waiting very patiently for the return of their baby! All is well with our little one.
The picture below is priceless. Can you spot that little cutie pie poking its head out? Precious.
I have learned so much about these beautiful birds. The Southern Albatross are the largest seabirds in the world with an average wing span of in excess of 3 metres or 9.8 feet. (I should mention that for a very long time it was thought that the Wandering Albatross was the largest both in wingspan and bulk but recent studies indicate that it is the Southern Royal Albatross or that they are the same.) When they are adults they will weigh about 8.5 kilograms or 18.73 pounds. Wow. Our little one has a long way to go. Once our chick fledges (or flies out to sea), they will spend four to six years on the ocean feeding and growing before they ever set their paddle feet on land. In fact, they have ‘sea legs’. You have probably heard that term. They can be quite wobbly. They will return to where they were born, as juveniles, looking for a mate. But they will not breed that year.
The parents are very tender with one another. They do sky calls, holding their head up proudly to the sky, and they preen one another. They see one another when they switch incubating and nesting duties. Once this chick fledges which is normally in September, they will not see one another again until the following November, if both survive. They are remarkable sea birds. I like to call them ‘Gentle Giants’.
The Albie on the right is doing a sky call. They will raise their long neck as if looking straight to the sky and give out what some call a ‘high pitched screaming bray’. Some say it sounds like a donkey! Not so sure about that but, maybe. Definitely higher pitched. When one or another of the parents arrive, they will often do a series of sky calls. In this instance it is really a way to say ‘hello’. Eventually the little one will copy their parents in the welcome.
Good Morning E17 and E18! The good news about our little eaglets from Harriet and M15’s aerie in Fort Myers is that they had their eyes open this morning with little to no discharge. Isn’t that fantastic? E-17 still has mild irritation in its right eye and conjuctivitis in both eyes. I wasn’t sure what that meant so I checked. We used to call it pink eye! It is an inflammation of the clear membrane that lines the eyes and covers the white part of our eyeball. You will have seen someone, maybe even yourself, where the blood vessels are visible. This is when they are inflamed and the white of the eye will appear pink or very red. That is what E-17 is fighting. E18 eyes are better. Both are really eating well. E17 is now 385 grams while E18 is 295 grams. If you have forgotten the weights from my last posting. E17 was 285 grams and has gained 100 grams and E18 was 220 grams and has gained 65 grams. Oh, they just look so much better and they are definitely gaining weight. This is so good. Maybe they can be delivered back to their parents by the end of the week. Let’s all send them warm wishes cheering them on. It looks like the antibiotics are starting to work.
There is also some good news for our Bald Eagles at Duke Farms. The snow gently fell again last night but by noon today (3 February), we can now see that it is beginning to melt off parts of the nest. Oh, this pair of eagles will surely be wanting spring to arrive. Just like I am. It is -4 and grey today. Cold to the bone but it is at least not -26 like it was a few days ago.
Take care everyone. Stay safe. Thank you so much for stopping in to check on the birds around the world with me. I hope that you have a really nice day!
And if you are looking for a different poster to send out about rodenticides, here is another. All our creatures will thank you for spreading the word. This is especially good if you live near a Bald Eagle nest.