Ten southern royal albatross were tracked through incubation (January/February). In a recent paper published in New Zealand Natural Sciences (34: 19-28) Tina, along with Adrian Paterson and Craig Sixtus from Lincoln University, report on their findings. Royal albatross appear to have specific foraging grounds that are hundreds to thousands of kilometers from Campbell Island. This causes them fly in what we term a ‘commute, forage, commute’ foraging strategy. The birds would generally commute in a direct movement, covering up to 800km/day. Foraging was more haphazard and the birds covered less than 180km/day, making frequent changes in direction and landing often. Once birds were satisfied with an area they would then commute to the next area to forage.
Wind direction and strength were shown to be important in determining how quickly the albatrosses could move and in the directions that they tended to move in. Winds from head, tail and right angles made it difficult to return to the colony. Likewise, bird mass was also important with lighter birds under 9kg finding it difficult to land in winds over 40km/hr. Overall, there appeared to reasonable flexibility in starting each foraging trip with birds able to select different foraging sites depending on the direction and intensity of the winds around Campbell Island. Obviously, only being able to follow ten birds for a month limits what we can discover about the biology of the royal albatross. However, a small window has opened onto a part of their lives that we know little about.