During the last 2 weekends I have been lucky enough to join pelagic trips out into the Cook Strait, inbetween the North and South Islands. Wonderful sunny and calm weather made the boat bit easy but it was very very cold. Albatross generally like windier weather as it is easier for them to fly but they still appeared in really good numbers. Here is my run down on common NZ albatross
I think of albatross as being in 3 categories: large, larger and absolutely huge.
(diomedea cauta salvini)
This mollymawk is easily
identifiable by the
very grey neck.
NZ White-capped Mollymawk
(diomedea cauta steadi)
head with a grey billed, tipped with yellow.
Buller's Mollymawk Black-browed Albatross
(diomedea bulleri) (thalassarche melanophris)
The bill is most obvious on This mollymawk has a distinct brow and pale bill
this mollymawk with the tipped with pink.
contrasting yellow and black.
The larger albatross I have photographed are the Royal species. Noticeably larger than the mollymawks, they tend to circle the boats and slowly make their way closer but rarely landing. They certainly earn their name. Distinguishing between them is straightforward with the Northern species having a clean white back and the Southern being more patchy as you can see from the photos below.
Southern Royal Albatross Northern Royal Albatross
(diomedea epomophora epomophora) (diomedea exulans sanfordi)
The largest of the albatross species is the wandering. With a huge wingspan they are the kings of the seas and stunning to see. They are not actually much larger than the Royal species but somehow they just look bigger. The Antipodean species is slightly smaller than the Gibson and darker.
Gibson's Wandering Albatross Antipodean Wandering Albatross
(diomedea gibsoni) (diomedea antipodensis)