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.

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.