Lesbian albatrosses to raise their chick

Two females set up 'unusual' family unit after successfully incubating egg

A A A

When two female royal albatrosses at a New Zealand breeding colony embarked on a lesbian relationship, there were some raised eyebrows. But when the pair successfully incubated a chick, wildlife experts were delighted – and surprised.

The father – one of scores of males at the Taiaroa Head Royal Albatross Centre on the South Island's wind-swept Otago Peninsula – appears to have disappeared. He will play no role in the upbringing of his week-old chick and, just like an increasing number of children, this bird will grow up with two mothers.

"It's quite unusual in the albatross population here at Taiaroa Head to have two females mating together," Lyndon Perriman, the colony's head ranger, told Television New Zealand. "Even more unusual than that is that the egg is actually fertile this season."

While homosexuality is well documented in the animal kingdom, including among seabirds, Taiaroa Head – the only mainland albatross breeding colony in the world – has recorded only two previous instances of females setting up a nest together in the past 70 years. Neither resulted in a happy ending.

The latest pair had tried nesting with a male albatross during two previous breeding seasons, but the threesome did not work out. This time, the two females took turns sitting on the egg.

Sam Inder, the manager of the centre, said: "It's an unusual situation because we've had a triangle with one male and two females for the past couple of years, and obviously that hasn't been terribly conducive to getting on with a breeding programme. This year the male left the trio, but obviously not before he had mated with one of the females."

The male has not been seen since, and Mr Inder told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "My personal view would be having to live with two women might be just a bit demanding."

Initially, rangers at the centre were not sure whether the female pair would stay together, so they tried them out with a dummy egg. When they proved to be good parents, the original egg was returned to the nest. Now the ladies are taking turns to guard the chick and fly out to sea to fetch food.

There are about 140 royal albatrosses on the colony with wingspans of nearly 10 feet. This season 17 chicks have hatched from 17 fertile eggs, a rare 100 per cent success rate.

Following widespread coverage of the newborn albatross with two mothers, including in the gay press, Tourism Dunedin is now canvassing suggestions for a name for the chick.

It is not the only same-sex pairing within the animal world on the Otago Peninsula, just south of Dunedin. Currently, two male yellow-eyed penguins – an endangered species like the royal albatross– are incubating an egg.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Part Time

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency based in Ashford, Ke...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent