Flight of the Albatross
Weekly Update: 10 June, 2012
It is June, and all of our monitored Laysan and Black-footed albatross chick populations have been given their adult U.S. Fish & Wildlife and Laysan specific blue and white auxiliary bands.
Our little chickies have really grown in the past couple of months, most being fully feathered! The faces of the Laysan albatross are turning white with faint traces of their striking grey shadowy eyes. Black-footed albatross have grown so large that they appear to easily outweigh their parents. Wild hairstyles of down are all the rage amongst these long-lived seabirds, with some sporting helmets, wolverine chops, monk-caps, side-swept mullets, dangling comb-overs, and crazy mats of chest down.
However much we’ve grown attached, it is hard to picture Laysan Island without them for these birds will soon be sea bound and instinctively forage for themselves. Since the beginning of the year they have sat and waited on their parents to travel long and far to gather them food. Boluses filled with indigestible squid beaks and plastic litter the ground, each awaiting their turn to be scavenged apart by the Laysan Finch.
Just as I’m writing this, I can see a Laysan albatross chick approaching the waterline of the northwest coast. It still has a few weeks left to go in order to lose the rest of its down, yet it struggles to defy what’s left of nature’s countdown. I recognize it as one that was fed by an adult just a couple of days ago, so starvation isn’t the motivating factor - yet.
As the waves roll in and out a decision has been made, and it slowly ambles back up the beach in order to resume its former position. Soon that decision will be different for this and all of the chicks. For those fortunate enough to survive, they will one day return to court and mate, continuing the cycle of life.
An excerpt from the writings of Toni Caldwell, Biological Science Tech Volunteer US Fish & Wildlife Service, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Laysan Island Summer Crew 2012