Albatrosses are the world’s largest seabirds, spending at least 85% of their lives at sea. Fourteen varieties of albatrosses breed in the New Zealand region – more than anywhere else in the world. Several are extremely rare, like the Chatham Islands mollymawk which breeds only on one tiny island in the Chathams. (See the DOC website: DOC:Albatrosses)
New Zealand’s albatrosses include two species of royal albatross, the largest of all the albatrosses. Given that these huge birds often live in very remote areas, it can be hard for most of us to see them. If you make it to Dunedin, you should definitely visit the Royal Albatross Centre, located on the Otago Peninsula. Pukekura/Taiaroa Head is home to the world’s only mainland royal albatross breeding colony. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these magnificent birds in real life, and a unique opportunity to view royal albatross parents and chicks. At the Royal Albatross Centre, visitors can watch the seasonal behaviour of breeding albatross including courting, egg incubation, chicks and adolescent hijinks.
If you’re too far away to pop into the Royal Albatross Centre, you can watch the development of little Moana, an albatross chick hatched on the 21st of January 2016, via a live stream web camera, placed directly in front of Moana’s nest: Moana: Royal Cam
This is an amazing opportunity to watch a baby albatross grow and explore its surroundings. Initially, Moana’s parents took turns guarding and feeding her. She is now left alone for extended periods while both parents head to sea to search for food. As she gets older and bigger, the parents spend more time out at sea. You may tune in and see an empty nest, but usually Moana’s not too far away. She needs to stay near the nest in case her parents come back to feed her.