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Albatross Are in the Air

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Nov 15, 2008

They’re back.  The majestic Laysan albatross are returning to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The males tend to arrive first and await the females who may arrive hours or a day later, but all albatross that nest here at the refuge tend to arrive within a three- or four-day period.  Shortly after the pair arrive, they will mate.  (Albatross form “pair bonds.”)  The courtship, if you will, doesn’t take long and follows a ritualized behavior that goes something like this:  Sky moo, head shake, bill clack.  Then, the two get down to business.

After mating, the albatross will head back to sea for a two-week pre-egg-laying exodus.  Basically, they fatten up for the energy required to care for the one egg that the female will lay.  Both parents participate in incubating the egg and feeding the chick.  In fact, both parents are required in the chick’s survival.  If one parent should die, it’s highly unlikely the chick will live to fledge.

When I arrived at Kilauea Point yesterday afternoon, there were 7 albatross on the hill.  When I left, we counted 22.  With all the arrivals, it was a busy day.  Even the red-footed boobies and great frigate birds circled the point with seeming excitement.  It was as if they were welcoming their family home after a long trip.  At times, I felt like I was standing under what fishermen call a bird pile.  That’s when birds gather around a particularly good feeding area at sea.  Thankfully, I wasn’t hit by any flying debris, if you know what I mean.

At closing, I even spotted my first two Nene gosling of the season.  So, it was a first for albatross and nene goslings, but I still have yet to spot my first humpback whale of the season, although visitors have reported seeing them during Napali boat tours.  In the mean time, I’ll keep you posted on the goings-on with the Laysan albatross.  If you’d like to know something specific about them, post a comment here, and I’ll investigate for you.


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