A visit from a Royal

One of the largest birds in the World!

Tasman Arch on misty day
Thick sea fog set a moody scene when we stopped at Tasman’s Arch.

Last week, a quite unusual weather pattern over Tasmania created a moody scene with thick fog along the coast for three days, limiting the vision to about 150m in places. This didn’t restrict the photo opportunities, since the mist raising up through the entrances of caves and arches made the coastal features appear even more dramatic. 🙂

Sea fog at the Candlestick
The Candlestick and Totempole at Cape Hauy breaking through the mist.

We expected it to be rather tricky to spot much wildlife other than the Seals in those conditions, but we got treated with a visit from a Royal on Thursday. About 1 nautical mile east of o’Hara’s Bluff, a Southern Royal Albatross flew right towards our boat and left everyone on board speechless after seeing its impressive wingspan.

Southern Royal Albatross appears in the sea fog
Southern Royal Albatross appearing in the sea fog.

Beside the Wandering Albatross, the Southern Royal Albatross is one of the two largest species of Albatrosses with an average wingspan of over 3m and an average weight of 8.5kg. These birds are rarely seen in the coastal waters of Tasmania. They mature between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, which is when they form a usually lifelong monogamous bond with a partner with whom they will mate every other year. If they are successful the female will lay one egg which both her and her partner will incubate. When the chick hatches, the parents share the responsibilities of feeding and raising it. They usually like to nest on plateaus, ridges or tussock grassland, with the majority of the Southern Royal Albatross nesting places located on the Subantarctic Campbell Island. Significantly smaller colonies can be found on Auckland Island and Adams Island as well as Enderby Island.

Southern Royal Albatross inshore in Tasmania
Close up photograph of a Southern Royal Albatross showing the distinguishing features.

Since Southern Royal Albatrosses are such a rarity in our area we weren’t 100% sure at first if it was truly one of them or a similar looking Northern Royal, or maybe a Wandering Albatross, however upon closer inspection of the photos we could clearly see the characteristic black cutting edge on the pink bill and the clean white leading edge on the wings. It was also missing the peach coloured neck spot usually seen in Wandering Albatrosses.

Getting to see such a rare animal up close reminds us how important it is to protect our Oceans and the creatures living in and around it. Even though the population is recovering after being severely depleted around 1930 (mainly due to the destruction of their nesting places in order to create farmland), human influences like longline fishing and plastic pollution are still major threats to these magnificent animals.

If you are traveling to Tasmania this season and would like to learn more about marine conservation and spot some local wildlife,  check out our tour options. We would love to share a day on the water with you!