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.

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower