Mollymawks are a group of medium-sized albatross species which are more commonly found in the Southern Ocean, rather than rural Greytown. Although ‘medium-sized,’ they reach 90 cm tall fully grown.
The juvenile bird is thought to be either a black-browed or grey headed mollymawk, which are almost identical as young birds. Both species breed on sub-Antarctic islands and are known to visit New Zealand waters.
DOC Wairarapa Biodiversity Supervisor Briggs Pilkington says it is very unusual to find a mollymawk so far inland.
“These are ocean birds that only come ashore to breed. If you see one on land they are likely in some sort of trouble. This bird probably blew in from Cook Strait in the last southerly and was too weak to fly back,” he says.
DOC staff took the bird to Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North, which is attached to Massey University’s School of Veterinary Science and New Zealand’s specialist wildlife hospital.
“The bird was a bit under weight and needed re-hydrating and feeding. Mollymawks get all the food and water they need from the sea, so it didn’t have much of a future in Greytown,” Briggs Pilkington says.
“We are very grateful to the woman who spotted the bird, called the DOC Hotline, and waited with it until we arrived.”
Briggs Pilkington says the Wildbase vets expect the bird will make a full recovery and it will be returned to its natural environment – the open ocean – probably with the help of a commercial fishing boat.
To report injured native wildlife place call the DOC Hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).