Albatross Gracefully Face Plants on Live Stream Feed of its Nesting Site

Looking through our social media posts over the years, we’ve all embarrassed ourselves a bit on the internet. A bird in New Zealand has now joined the ranks of being less than suave online.

In early March, the Royal Cam in New Zealand captured a northern royal albatross trying to make a landing and face planting instead. The live stream is a program by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the New Zealand Department of Conservation. It’s set up on the Otago Peninsula, in the Taiaroa Head Nature Reserve. The stream lasts through breeding season.

A fluffy chick produced during the nesting season was also in the footage as the adult made its less-than-graceful contact with land.

In a tweet sharing the video, the Royal Cam Twitter account posted, “Flying for the albatross is mainly effortless, landing can be a little bit harder. #RoyalCam chick had a front row seat to a ‘how not to land’ lesson. Lucky for the somersaulting alby, recovery was quick and only the chick was watching!!”

Hoani Langsbury, Taiaroa Head’s tourism manager, says the spill was probably due to a change in the wind. However, crash landings are nothing new for the albatross, especially among juveniles and birds that have just returned to land after being out at sea for some time.

On it’s All About Birds website, the Cornell lab says Taiaroa Head is the only mainland colony of albatross in the Southern Hemisphere. They enjoy the area with thousands of other birds.

The website explains, “With nearly 10,000 seabirds residing on Taiaroa Head, the wildlife viewing opportunities at this site are immense, but timing is everything. Some species are only present for part of the year, others are nocturnal with their land based activities; others, like the giant albatross, prefer certain weather where there is wind to soar.”


The New Zealand Department of Conservation bands the Royal Cam nesting pairs and tells their stories on its website.

According to the DOC, the northern royal albatross is among the largest seabirds in the world, but they’re vulnerable. Their threats include slow reproduction rates, changes in habitat and climate, and some fishing practices. A large portion of their nesting habitat was also destroyed when a storm hit the Chatham Islands in 1985.

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The nesting area at Taiaroa Head can see ground temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t ideal for the species. However, the DOC says this is the place they’ve chosen.

To help safeguard the birds here, a sprinkler system has been installed to spray water over the nest on hot days. With the heat, the adult birds can often leave the egg exposed to flies as they stand up to cool themselves. Fly eggs or live maggots on the eggs can kill the chick before it hatches, so staff place a cottonwool ball with peppermint in the nest. This helps cover the chick’s smell and repels flies.


When they’re not breeding, the birds travel far and wide.

The DOC says, “Renowned ocean wanderers, royal albatross travel vast distances from their breeding grounds to feed – as much as 190,000 km a year. Royal albatross range throughout the Southern Ocean and are most commonly seen in New Zealand coastal waters during winter.”

They only return to land to breed and raise their young. Typically, one chick is produced every two years.

To watch the birds as they nest, check out the Royal Cam here.

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