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Famous NZ albatross flies off on OE

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6/09/2016 Cleo Mary Fraser

A New Zealand bird with more online followers than most Kiwi celebrities has spread her wings in search of a more private life abroad.

Thousands have watched Moana grow from a fluffy, clumsy chick to a soaring full-grown northern royal albatross via a webcam set up over-looking her nest at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula.

The Department of Conservation royal cam website has been viewed more than 500,000 since she hatched in January.

On Tuesday it was revealed that Moana, named following a public campaign, had flown the nest and set out for South American waters.

Her big overseas trip is expected to last four to 10 years, after which it's hoped she'll return home to settle down and raise a chick.

Hoani Langsbury, from the Otago Peninsula Trust which helps manage the Taiaroa Head colony, says Moana has captured the hearts of many and sparked an influx of visitors eager to catch a glimpse of the vulnerable species.

"She has been an incredible ambassador for royal albatross and we hope to see her back again in a few years," he said.

Some of Moana's fans will attend an event at the Albatross Centre later this month to mark her departure.

The webcam will remain at Taiaroa Head capturing the comings and goings of birdlife - and awaiting its next star to hatch.

Northern royal albatrosses are among the world's biggest sea birds, with wing spans of nearly three metres.

The Taiaroa Head northern royal albatross colony has grown from one breeding pair in 1937 to about 50.

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