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Source: Department of Conservation

This Friday is the first ever World Albatross Day, so we’re bringing some wholesome and awesome albatross content to your little corner of the internet.

By your fave anonymous DOC blogger

Albatross are a big deal in Aotearoa. Not just because this is the seabird capital of the world (this is something I’ve heard people say but maybe it’s a self-appointed title because I couldn’t find evidence), or because they’re critical to ecosystems – more on that later.

The main thing is that some of the breeding species of albatross that call Aotearoa home are extremely rare, and we want them to glide their way into your hearts and claim some space there.

You can read all about World Albatross Day over on the ACAP website, but the theme is eradicating island pests and the name of the game is raising awareness.

So without further ado:

Here’s an introduction to some of Aotearoa’s albatross.

And their epic eyebrows.

White-capped albatross

Image: Vincent Zintzen DOC, white-capped albatross with a moody mien

LOOK AT THIS INTENSITY.

This bird looks like a Very Serious Business Bird.

And in fact, as populations of albatross around the world continue to decline and around 80 percent of albatross species are threatened; their conservation is indeed a very serious business.

DOC is actively involved in albatross research. Most species breed on remote, inaccessible islands, so studying their populations is challenging, but teams of experts have been working hard on various remote islands around the world to study these birds.

We’ll have more info about some of the research the team have been doing on Salvin’s albatross going live on the blog tomorrow – I can’t give you spoilers for someone else’s blog (that’s bad blog form) so you’ll have to hold your horses, but I will say: have you ever seen such brows!?

Salvin’s albatross

I also think it’s very, very important that we don’t sleep on my personal favourite albatross, the one that gets my Bird of the Year vote every year because of their colourful visage.

Behold:

Buller’s albatross

This expression suggests to me that if you wrong a Buller’s albatross, their mournful intensity will haunt your dreams for life.

I might be anthropomorphising over the line with this whole eyebrow bit – ie I’m possibly going a bit far in giving these birds human characteristics, but their survival relies deeply on as many people as possible caring about them.

See, albatross are at risk from climate change, predation from introduced species, plastic pollution, habitat loss and bycatch. Which is a lot of factors to contend with. And in May, DOC and Fisheries NZ released the reviewed National Plan of Action on Seabirds which is a critical piece of work.

This is good news for this sleek-browed creature:

Antipodean albatross

Image: S Horn, Antipodean albatross nesting

Whose courting behaviour is not dissimilar to what you might see in town on Friday or Saturday nights:

Image: Sarah Fraser, Antipodean albatross courting

To which I say, keep that up my feathered friends, because you’re endangered as.

Antipodean albatross have the highest threat status in the country – Nationally Critical – so they really need to keep getting down to business at mating time.

They nest on Antipodes Islands where mice (the only introduced pest) were eradicated in 2016. There’s more info about these birds coming your way on our social channels, including some very special content from Live Ocean tomorrow.

Next up:

Light mantled sooty albatross

Image: Leona Plaisier, light mantled sooty albatross

Great name, great (non) brows.

Sadly, this species was in the news earlier this week as one died in Wellington due to ingesting plastic. The team at Wellington Zoo operated, but unfortunately the bird died while recuperating. Upon post-mortem, plastic was revealed to be the cause.

Please, please, please pick up any plastic litter you see. Do this everywhere, but especially in coastal areas. Because it’s killer.

Rounding out now with a happy story:

Northern royal albatross

Image: Laura Honey DOC, one of the albatross made famous by wifi & Youtube

Royal Cam is the show that Bravo really needs to pick up.

This is a 24/7 live stream of a Northern royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head; and over the years there have been many magnificent moments.

Like cute fluffy chicks.

Image: Laura Honey DOC, the first Royal Cam chick
Livestream screengrab

The current cam is in partnership with Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The colony at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head is the only mainland colony of albatross in the southern hemisphere, and the most accessible place for people to visit, see and learn about these seabirds.  

The chick on the stream at the moment is just over 140 days old and has amassed fans from all around the world. Views spiked in lockdown as well, as people were eager to stream a bit of nature direct into their homes.

At the end of the day

Albatross are amazing and it’s great we now have an awareness day as a little reminder to get amped for albatross.

Actions I recommend are to have a bit of a read up, engage, look out for plastic litter, and do your bit for conservation on the whole. Because Aotearoa’s albatross are really, really cool. And we want to you to love them.

These are just a handful of my favourite albatross (although if my manager asks, I don’t have favourites); but for an overview of all of Aotearoa’s majestic albatross, there’s a handy graphic on our Facebook page.

We’re excited for World Albatross Day tomorrow.

#birdbrows for the win.

MIL OSI