The beautiful, majestic albatross is the world's largest seabird. Two of the royal albatross species are native to New Zealand. The northern royal albatross breeds on the Chatham Islands. The southern royal albatross breeds on the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. These island groups are among the world's most important seabird sanctuaries.
Albatross have a huge wingspan, some species reaching lengths of up to 3.3 metres across. They spend most of their life at sea, some flying up to an estimated 190,000 kilometres a year.
Their diet consists of dead squid, fish and krill that they catch or scavenge.
Albatross return to land only to breed and raise their young. Albatross pairs bond over a period of years, and last their life time. Each pair raises one chick about every 2 years.
Fishing, drift nets and sea pollution affect the albatross numbers. This combined with their naturally low productivity, changes in climate and habitat conditions have meant that many albatross species have neared extinction.
The Department of Conservation has conservation efforts that look after the care, management and breeding sites of New Zealand's albatrosses. They have attached tiny transmitters to some of the birds to learn about their habits and track their flight paths. Entry into the island sanctuaries where the albatross breed is strictly controlled.