Home                    WANDERING ALBATROSS             back toECO
Diomedea exulens


Wandering Albatross have a wide oceanic range and many circumnavigate the globe in the southern latitudes. They nest on the New Zealand sub-antarctic islands starting in late January till the single chick flies in the following January. The adults then miss a year before breeding again. The Wanderer is the largest of the albatross family we see here around East Cape it is present year round but is more prevalent in the winter months. We see them from dark plumaged juvenile birds with their white mask through to full adults, they are easily distinguished from the other albatross we see by their size alone. They are a bird which will readily approach a boat and will eagerly accept fish, a habit which makes them vulnerable to hooks, however they don't dive and will only reach about half a metre underwater which somewhat reduces that vulnerability. It's a great sight to see a Wanderer approaching the boat, the effortless glide with hardly a movement, wing-tip centimetres from the water as they turn, water-ski to a stop and carefully fold away their huge wing-span before paddling up to the boat and asserting their authority over any other birds present as they "take over the territory".


Diamedea epomophora

royal albatross

We see a good number of royal albatross but at times they can be difficult to seperate from wanderers as they rarely come close to the boat and almost never land. The bird in the photo was one of two that landed by the boat in January 2004 while we were cleaning fish. These magnificent birds breed at the chatham Islands and there is a small mainland colony at Tairoa Head in Dunedin.


Diomedea melanophris                      Diomedea impavida


There are two distinct races of Black-browed Molly in New Zealand waters, the smaller (D impavida) breeds mainly on Campbell island and the larger (D melanophris) on Macquarie island. Nesting starts in October and lasts till the end of March or early April. Black-browed are the predominant albatross here, both races are present in about equal numbers as we see two distinct size birds, the other field characteristic is a pale coloured eye on on the smaller impavida. Rarely is there a day on the sea when we don't have several of these impressive birds around the boat and often groups of 5 or more will sit expectantly waiting for a handout.

Diomedea bulleri


I particularly enjoy seeing this small albatross as their plumage pattern of a grey head and neck with a white cap and their bill with a dark band seperating the yellow upper and lower surfaces gives them a clean sharp look. They are not as abundant here as the black-browed but we see one or two on most days. They will land by a boat but tend to stay farther back than other species. They breed only in New Zealand waters at the Chatham Islands and the sub-antartic islands. In the Chathams eggs are laid in October - November with the young flying in April - May. On the southern islands breeding is about 3 months later.

Diomedea cauta

SHY MOLLYMAWK Diomedea cauta

Shy Mollymawk

Cauta is the largest of the mollys, they can be identified on the wing by their white underwing with narrow black margines and a black triangle where the leading edge of the wing meets the body. We see them quite often but not every day, they will land by the boat but usually stay well back. Breeding is at the Auckland islands with eggs laid in October and the young flying in February, March.

Diomedia salvini


Salvini stay well out to sea we usually only see them when we are 20 miles or more offshore, they are reluctant to approach a boat but will sometimes land nearby. Sometimes called the Bounty Island Molly as they only nest on the Bounty and Snares islands, they are considered to be a sub-species of Cauta. The distinctive underwing common to all three sub species of cauta can be clearly seen in the above photo.


Diomedea chlororhynchus


This is the first of these small molly's I have seen here. These birds breed at the Tristan da Cunha islands in the Atlantic and on St Paul and Amsterdam Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Puffins carneipes


This dark shearwater with a pale bill and feet is the predominant summer offshore shearwater of the East Cape they are present in large numbers from November till April or May. They are rarely seen closer than two or three miles from shore but are very numerous from ten to twenty miles and farther out to sea. They breed on offshore islands from Cook Strait to the Hen and Chickens laying in November to December with the young flying in April.

Procellaria cinerea

GREY PETREL                    GREY PETREL

Grey petrels are a bird we see only occasionally, they are more prevelant in the winter months. They are circum-polar in range and breed on sub-antarctic islands in winter, laying in May with the young flying in November. They are a large distinctive petrel with grey upper surface and white underparts.

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