Bird of the month: The albatross
What’s not to love about the albatross?
The albatross is the largest sea bird on the planet, and they spend as much as 85 per cent of their lives away from land. In New Zealand, there are fourteen varieties of this bird, the most famous of which is arguably the Royal Albatross, as this is the largest of them all.
Due to their time spent at sea, it’s likely that the only time you’ll get a chance to spot an albatross of any kind is when it returns to land to breed and hatch their young. Most albatross only breed once every two years, making them both a special sight – and a reasonably rare species due to their low productivity!
While they’re away, an albatross flies an estimated 190,000 kilometres every year. To put that in perspective, it’s approximately 2,200 kilometres from Cape Reinga to Bluff, so an albatross would cover that distance roughly 86 times every 12 months. What’s even more incredible is that a young bird will spend the first three to five years of its life out at sea, not once touching land for that time.
With a wingspan of up to 3.3 metres across, it’s hard to miss one of these magnificent birds. They are almost completely white, but the top sides of their wings are black. Should you see one walking around on land, it may look decidedly clumsy, but in flight they are something truly spectacular.
Additionally, many albatrosses live to be in their 40s, making them some of the longest-living birds on the planet.
One of the most common places to see an albatross is on the headland at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula, where breeding birds arrive in September to nest. If you happen to be in the South Island around this time, a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre there is a must!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist