The South Island town of Kaikoura attracts thousands of bird-watching enthusiasts every year. Its proximity with a deep ocean trench provides an ideal ecological environment producing a substantial food chain capable of sustaining a complex array of birds and other marine species. To order prints of the pictures below, simply click on any image or visit The Ocean gallery.
A Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) surrounded by Cape Petrels (Daption capense) catches food in mid air, off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand. Also known as Snowy Albatross, this impressive bird can be found on New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands (Antipodes, Campbell and Auckland Islands). Its wingspan is the largest of any living bird at 3.4m. With less than 30,000 mature alive today, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has placed the Wandering Albatross on its list of animals presenting a high risk of endangerment in the wild. Commercial longline fishing represents the largest threat to the survival of the Wandering Albatross. As they plunge for food, the birds often become entangled in bait hooks used by longline fishing fleets covering the vast foraging areas covered by the albatross. The chicks of drowned adults do not survive as a single parent cannot provide enough food for a growing bird.
A Cape Petrel (Daption capense) in flight. Cape Petrels, also called Cape Pigeons, are the noisiest of the petrel species. Others are mostly silent, when at sea. Cape Petrels feature a distinctive black and white mottled pattern on their wings. Their breeding grounds are the small rocky islands at the periphery of the Antarctic.
A Cape Petrel (Daption capense, center) and a Southern Royal Albatross (Diomedea epomophora,) quarrel in the open sea while a Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus, left) looks on. The Southern Royal Albatross' plumage is mostly white but darkens on the upper wings close to the bird's body. Unlike the Southern Royal Albatross whose numbers are in the tens of thousands, Cape Petrels have a large global population estimated to be around two million individuals.
A Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus) prepares to take off. Also known as Southern Giant Fulmar, this antarctic scavenger can weigh up to 5Kg, live for more than 30 years and is known for its aggressive temperament. "Stinker" is a moniker for giant petrels coming from their ability to spit food or oil projectiles with great accuracy when under threat.
Two Cape Petrels (Diomedea epomophora or Cape Pigeons) fight next to a Southern Royal Albatross. Cape pigeons filter ingested water for krill, seize small fish and squid by swooping or plunging under water. They are also avid followers of fishing vessels to feed on offal and are always on the lookout for carcasses at sea. Like its larger cousin, the Southern Giant Petrel, cape pigeons possess the save aggressive traits and will spit oil at competitors. The largest concentrations of Cape Petrels are located in the Scotia Sea islands and around the Antarctic peninsula.
Cape Petrel (Daption capense) breed on sub-Antactic islands, on those surrounding around the coast of Antarctica and can live for up to 20 years. They are are very aggressive towards their own species and others.
Two Royal Southern Albatross (Diomedea epomophora) fighting, Kaikoura, New Zealand. 99% of the Royal Southern Albatross live on the remote sub-antarctic Campbell Island (700Km south of New Zealand). The island is home to six species of albatross, all of which can live for more than 60 years. With rats responsible for the extinction of two species and several no longer found on the main island, the New Zealand Department of Conservation initiated a rodent eradication program in 2001. The rats (Rattus norvegicus) had been introduced by accident soon after the island's discovery in 1810.