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Royal Albatross | by Anita363
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Royal Albatross

The tip of the Otago Peninsula (off Dunedin) hosts the only mainland nesting colony of the threatened Royal Albatross. These tremendous birds have up to a 3-meter (yes, >9 ft) wingspan. The colony itself is accessible only via guided tour from the Royal Albatross Centre , although you can see birds on the wing without taking the tour. This photo was taken thru the smoked-glass window of the observation blind built by the Centre, and has been color-corrected to compensate. This year there were ~half a dozen nesting pairs, plus the 'singles scene': unpaired birds soar and swoop above the colony at speeds up to 115 kph (70 mph), seeking the mate of their dreams. (Me, I've found mine now -- hence the honeymoon.) It's quite a sight (and not an easy shot)! They mate for life, not starting until ~age 15, and can live to over 60. A pair typically raises only 1 chick every 3 yrs: 11 wk to incubate the egg and 9 mo to raise the chick to fledging. Once the young bird takes off on its maiden flight, it will not touch dry land again for at least 2 years: it circumnavigates the Antarctic, feeding on the rich Southern Ocean. Its parents do likewise, and it probably takes them all 2 yrs to recover from the experience before they're ready to begin the cycle again!

 

This location also host the only nesting colony of the Otago Shag.

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Taken on December 15, 2006