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Albatross Encounter Update November 2009

Posted by Dennis Buurman (28 Comments)
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for the month of November. This month has been a good one for us with 29 days of operation. The range of birds seen this month has been excellent with some unusual species sighted, making things interesting to both customers and skippers alike. To see what species were seen for this month and for other months, go to our sightings page.

Sightings of interest this month are as follows:

White morph southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), Indian yellow-nosed albatross(Thalassarche carteri), Chatham Island albatross (Thalassarche eremita), Cook's petrel (Pteradroma cookii), Campbell Island albatross (Thalassarche impavida). 

On the 8th of this month a yellow-nosed albatross was sighted. The yellow-nosed albatross are visitors to our coastline and are usually juvenile birds that have dispersed around the southern ocean, though we do see adult birds as well, which are very attractive with their yellow stripe on the top of their bill. When mature they will return to their breeding islands in the South Atlantic with the largest colonies on Amsterdam and Prince Edward Islands. The yellow-nosed  is the smallest albatross that we see here in Kaikoura weighing only 2.5kg, compared to the massive southern royal which weighs in at an impressive 9kg.

We had a great sighting of the white morph of the southern giant petrel with some great photos taken by both our skipper and customers on board. Approximately 10% of the southern giants are of this colour variation, making it a sought after “tick” for keen birders. 

On the last day of  November there was a sighting of an endangered species of albatross, the Chatham Island albatross. This bird, as the name suggests, breeds in the Chatham Island group exclusively on Pyramid Rock. The population is estimated at around 4000 pairs and with such a restricted breeding area, is vulnerable to climatic, geological and human disturbances. It is part of the shy group of albatross along with the Salvin's, and white-capped albatross. It is also a very attractive bird with striking features making it very photogenic. 

The 18th  and 28th  saw sightings of one of our endemic Pteradroma species, the Cook's petrel. This small/medium sized species breeds on offshore island in the Hauraki Gulf in the North Island with, what can only be presumed, non breeding birds venturing further south foraging on plankton and small squid. 

This month we have seen many white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctualis). What has been unusual is the sighting of two individuals with abnormal plumage. The white-chined petrel is normally a uniform black/dark brown, but these individuals had a mottled appearance on both the body, upper and lower wings. It is thought that this is a form of partial albanisim which has been recorded in other bird species, but has not been seen in white-chinned petrels here in Kaikoura. 

The beautiful Campbell Island albatross has been seen on a few occasions, offering customers the chance to photograph one of the more attractive of the albatross family. This endemic differs from the black-browed albatross due to its yellow iris and more pronounced black eyebrows.

A banded northern royal albatross was seen close to our vessel this month with the colour coded bands clearly visible. We presume this bird is one of the albatross from the small colony on the Otago Peninsula on Tairoa Head, though we have not been able to confirm this at this stage. We hope to hear from the Royal Albatross Centre to get some personal information about this bird and will share this with you.  

Till next month, good birding.



Tour Photos

White Morph
Northern Royal
Campbell Island Albatross
Antarctic Fulmar


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