'Albicakes' herald World Albatross Day

Ben McKay
An albatross cake made for the inaugural World Albatross Day on June 19

Every issue under the sun seems to have an annual commemoration these days.

But not every one has cake. And fewer still have cakes shaped like an albatross.

The gentle giants of the sky are being honoured on Friday for the first time, the inaugural World Albatross Day.

Organisers are staging an art competition, awarding photographic prizes and throwing a 'Albicake bake off' for fans of the giant sea-roaming birds.

Melanie Wells, a PhD student from Hobart studying the health of Tasmanian seabirds, is one of dozens of entrants from across the globe in the bake-off, choosing the light-mantled albatross with spectacular results.

"They are a really charismatic bird with an amazing call like 'pi-yoooo!'," she says.

"It's iconic. My cake is the bird doing the call.

"It's a chocolate cake with a buttercream frosting and I used activated charcoal to colour the frosting and marzipan for the legs and bill.

"It's my girlfriend's favourite bird so I made it for her."

Ms Wells knows the light-mantled albatross better than most.

She's spent a lengthy stint monitoring the beautiful grey birds on remote Macquarie Island as part of her studies.

"We're always making cakes down there," she said.

"The alby researchers down there monitoring the population spend a lot of time in the field and you work up a real appetite.

"There's a big cooking subculture with an infamous cookbook called 'how to cook an albatross' but of course we don't cook them."

Almost every species of albatross, of which 10 are seen in Tasmanian skies, is under a degree of threat according to the Red List, ranging from 'near threatened' to 'critically endangered'.

A sick and lost toroa pango, the Maori name given to the species in New Zealand, was rescued from a Wellington suburb last week and taken to the Zoo to recover.

The underweight bird died as it recovered from surgery, with an autopsy showing it had pieces of plastic in its stomach.

"Plastics are a huge issue," Ms Wells said.

"There's a lot of issues facing albatrosses and they all compound each other. The big one is climate change which affects everything in the marine system

"Albatrosses live so long and they're slow to breed so they have a very slow recovery rate."

June 19 has been chosen to celebrate World Albatross Day as it is the anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).

The international organisation is headquarted in Hobart.