I took a tour called the Albatross Encounter in Kaikoura, New Zealand. In the open ocean, many professional ship followers gathered around the boat. The tour organizer tossed a bag of net containing sea foods (mostly looked like squids) in the water. Then all these wonderful, magnificently giant pelagic birds were fumbling, quarreling, and devouring the free snack right in front of my eyes. It was an unforgettable experience that watching the pelagic birds in such a near proximity. Those birds I would never encounter closely unless I work as a fisherman in the open ocean.
Northern Giant Petrel [Macronectes halli]
The most impressive bird was the giant petrel who showed the perfect gliding skill. They followed the boat again and again, most of the time, they easily overtook the boat speed. As if they were playing the game, catch me if you can!
The character of the giant petrel was funny, especially when they were fighting over the snack. They constantly showed off between the peers, i.e., between the same species; but did not charge at the wandering albatrosses, the bigger brothers in the neighborhood. Neither they intimidated the much smaller cousin, Cape Petrels.
An interesting fact I read about them is that their appetite is different between males and females. Males are observed to behave more like scavengers, eating the carcasses of seals, penguins, whales, other petrels, albatross chicks, or anything available, whereas females prefer to catch something on the sea. Hence, the food items delivered to their chicks are different depending on the parent’s sex. Time to time I saw photos of a bird’s head covered with fresh blood, well, the bird was the giant petrel!
Cape Petrel [Daption capense]
There were other petrel species much smaller than the Giant Petrel, including cape petrel and white-chinned petrel. The cape petrels manifested active and bold nature, they were at the front line in the battle for the free food. They did not care the fact that the bigger competitors had giant wings, massive bills, and aggressive calls. They were also constantly harassing other peers of their own like the ginat petrels did each other.
White-Chinned Petrel [Procellaria aequinoctialis]
This species is classified as a vulnerable species. That day, I saw only one individual. He was late for the sea party and just watching the group at the far side.
Four albatross species visited the boat. Albatrosses are also known to be monogamous and their pair-bonds generally last life-long. Compared with Diomedea spp., Thalassarche spp. were less studied. Thalassarche spp. are also called as Mollymawk or Mallemuck, which originated from Middle Dutch language and meant silly (mal) gull (mok).
- Wandering Albatross [Diomedea exulans]
- Southern Royal Albatross [Diomedea epomophora]
- Salvin’s Albatross [Thalassarche salvini]
- Shy-type Albatrosses [Thalassarche cauta/steadi]
The most aggressive and curious albatross was the wandering albatross. They were always at the nearest to the boat and gave the pressing look.
I uploaded more photos of these species on my photography website, under the Order name Procellariiformes.
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Procellaria aequinoctialis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/02/2020.
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G. (eds.) (2020). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/ on 07/02/2020).
“Mallemuck.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mallemuck. Accessed on 07/02/2020.