Albatrosses in competition for best looks

Over the next month, Te Papa is working with the community of enthusiasts and researchers on seabirds – albatrosses and petrels in particular – to showcase the unique work of this group, and to allow a glimpse of the beauty, vulnerability, and amazing adaptations of these birds and unique environments they inhabit.

Our focus on this group of birds relates to the need for conservation efforts needed to arrest declines in several key populations – at present, the albatross group is the under threat at a higher level than any other group of birds, with a high proportion of species listed as globally threatened with extinction, and the rate of change of species status higher than other groups.

Learn more with the Global Seabird Programme of BirdLife International

In conjunction with the organisers of the 5th International Albatross and Petrel Conference, Te Papa launched the initiative on 13 July. The competition is open to anyone to contribute images via the Te Papa website. Several other groups have helped to sponsor the competition and prizes including Woolf Photography, Albatross Encounter, Te Papa Press, Friends of Te Papa and the Ornithological Society of New Zealand.

Access the competition website

Edit: The competition is now closed

Images have come in from across the globe, and include some of the world’s rarest and most endangered species. Some particularly stunning images include shots of birds on the nest with their young, and pictures of the incredible habitats in which the birds spend their time at sea, or where they nest.

Father & Son (Indian yellow-nosed albatross), 2012, Amsterdam Island, by Jeremie Demay. © Jeremie Demay

In particular, we were seeking to engage with the community of researchers and bird-lovers, many of whom work on a voluntary basis to do conservation and population monitoring studies. Others are dedicated professionals; all have unique moments to share of their experience with albatrosses and petrels. The documenting of people at work with birds often is difficult…researchers try to minimise the impact of their studies on species, and extra time to take photos in the midst of pressured work programmes can be lacking, but we’re really delighted that some of these field biologists have take the time to share special moments.

Arms wide open (Wandering albatross), 2011, Antipodes Island, by James C. Russell © James C. Russell

It was particularly impressive to have uploads of images direct from field sites dotted around the Southern Ocean.  Amsterdam Island is one of the remotest islands on the planet, more than 1000 km from any continent; it is plum in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Yet it harbours a keen group of researchers who over-winter as part of a French research programme. And several are apparently keen photographers!

Delicate touch (White-faced storm petrel), 2007, Mokohinau Islands, by James C. Russell © James C. Russell

Among my favourite birds to see at sea (when not being blown-away by the splendour of large, white, glamorous albatrosses), are the tiny storm petrels, nicknamed ‘Jesus Birds’ for their ability to patter their feed on the water. One entry portrays the fragility and delicacy of these enigmatic little species expertly as it skips above the water surface. Another shows how small and delicate they are in the hands of an expert handler.

White-bellied storm-petrel, 2010, Lord Howe Island group, by Sarah Jacob. © Sarah Jacob

As well as the birds going about their daily business, there is a focus on interactions between humans and birds at sea, with the often positive comradeship of sea-going humans and birds portrayed delightfully in some shots themselves.

Constant campanions (Salvin’s Albatross), 2011, Kaikoura, by Peter Langlands © Peter Langlands

In short, there’s something for everyone on this web-page. Either for the photographer to encourage them to explore the lighting, dynamic tension, and rare circumstances that lead to ‘just the right shot’ or for the lovers of sea-creatures and birds. For albatross and petrel boffins, a visit to this web page is rather like having too much cake for tea!

Access the competition website

Edit: The competition is now closed

One Response

  1. Pamela Moresby

    All of these photos are lovely.


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