Albatross and Wildlife of the Otago Peninsula
Taiaroa Head is widely regarded as the ‘Wildlife Capital Of The World’ by many wildlife enthusiasts and experts. This small headland situated right at the Otago Harbour entrance, and in the middle of the Roaring Forties, hosts nine different types of seabird and one species of marine mammal, all of which who breed here.
The unique combination of ocean currents and temperatures, wind patterns, a rich eco system and the presence of deep oceanic troughs only a few miles away, means the area can sustain a variety of animals, both resident and transient.
Resident wildlife includes fur seals, sea lions, dolphins, shearwaters, albatross, wading birds, penguins, swans , shags, cormorants, terns and much more. Transient visitors include whales, petrels, elephant and leopard seals, sub-Antarctic penguins, various other albatross species, gannets, skuas, godwits and much more.
Best known of the area’s inhabitants is the Northern Royal Albatross. With its wingspan of up to three metres and it’s status classified as endangered, the Northern Royal Albatross is certainly the celebrity species of the Taiaroa Head wildlife.
Taking almost a full year to complete the breeding cycle, there is always something to be seen of the Northern Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head. Whether it be nest building, incubating eggs, rearing chicks, engaging in courtship rituals or soaring above the headland, the Northern Royal Albatross is a permanent feature. As they are an oceanic species, the albatross breeding population alternates every year. Albatross taking a year off from breeding venture as far away as the coast of South America.
Other species of albatross can be seen a short distance off shore from Taiaroa Head. Such as the larger cousins of the Northern Royal Albatross-the Southern Royal Albatross. And the many, slightly smaller cousins such as the Buller’s, White-Capped and Salvin’s Albatross. To name only a few.
These other species of albatross are sub-Antarctic and do not come to land here as they only nest on small offshore islands. They can only be easily viewed at sea, where they feed.
Three quarters of the world’s albatross, penguins and petrels and half of the world’s shearwaters and shag species are found in New Zealand. Many of these can be seen within a few miles of the Otago Harbour entrance. On the headland itself, nine species of seabird and one marine mammal breed giving Taiaroa Head it reputation of being the ‘Wild Life Capital of the World.’
As Wildlife Documentary star David Attenborough once said “Otago Peninsula and Taiaroa Head is a unique and very special place. It is a place that every visitor to Dunedin should see.”