Diomedea epomophora sanfordi Murphy, 1917, Chatham Islands.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Toroa; French: Albatros royal; German: Königsalbatros; Spanish: Albatros Real.
Wingspan 8.85–10.0 ft (270–305 cm); 13.75–18.1 lb (6.25–8.2 kg); length: c. 45 in (115 cm). Large white bodied albatross with upper wing surface black. Eyelids black, spotted white in oldest birds.
Breeds only on New Zealand South Island (Taiaroa Head), Chatham Islands (Sisters and Forty-
Marine, breeding on exposed tops of small islets or headlands.
Extensive repertoire of mutual and group displays at the breeding site, some of which are occasionally performed in the air or on the water. Once pair bond is formed the most extravagantly spread wing displays are not used.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Most food taken by surface seizing. Mainly cephalopods, with some fish, salps, and crustaceans. During the breeding season, feeding occurs over continental shelf breaks within 620 mi (1,000 km) of the colony. Probably an opportunistic feeder when migrating.
Lays one egg 27 October to 8 December with laying time fixed according to parentage. Nest a raised bowl of soil and vegetation rebuilt after each nesting attempt. Will also lay on bare rock with rock chips, but egg failures then are greater than 90%. On average, incubation is 79 days and fledging 240 days. Biennial breeder if successful. Monogamous, pairing usually for life. Breeding starts at 8 years and the average age of the breeding population is 20 years. Adult annual mortality is 4–5%.
Endangered. Total population c. 7,700 pairs, restricted to a tiny breeding range; the habitat supporting 99% of the population in Chatham Islands was severely degraded by storms in the 1980s. The resulting reduced productivity suggests a predicted 50% decline will occur over three generations unless the habitat improves significantly.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
At Taiaroa Head the efforts of L.E. Richdale enabled protection of the fledgling colony by 1950. Public viewing started in 1972, and by 2001 more than 100,000 persons annually viewed the nesting colony.