On the windswept end of the Otago Peninsula comes a rare love story. Lyndon Perriman, DOC Ranger (Biodiversity) explains.
GO and WO are a pair of royal albatross sitting on a fertile egg this breeding season at Taiaroa Head. The pair get their names from their unique coloured leg bands. GO (male) has green and orange bands while the WO (female) has white and orange.
Albatross generally partner for life, but GO and WO (both in their 30’s) are an exception to this rule. The pair are breeding together for the first time since separating from their partners last breeding season. They are expecting their first chick together in the new year.
An injury and few sightings of GO’s previous mate led to his separation. It is likely WO’s previous mate started seeing a different female – a plot suitable for a TV drama series maybe?
Although the pair have a second chance at love, hatching a chick in the hot summer weather has challenges.
The effects of the sun on ground temperature can cause the birds and their nests to overheat. The birds become stressed, and can accidentally crack their eggs in efforts to cool down.
The solution? Cool the nests and birds with water. On hot days, we spray nests with a fine mist. The mist cools the birds, protects the eggs from sunlight, and prevents egg breakages. While it might only be used 5 or 6 times a year, it is a useful management tool!
We have our fingers crossed for a successful breeding season for GO and WO.
Taiaroa Head or Pukekura was an important site for Maori and (later) European settlers. Today it is world renown as the only mainland colony of albatross in the Southern Hemisphere.
Every year about half of the headland’s 200 northern royal albatross make landfall for courtship or to nest. With a breeding cycle of 11 months, viewing albatross is almost a year round event.