Birds born on the island go to sea after the
first year and do not return for 3-4 years. They come back as singles and spend
time trying to find a lifetime mate. Albatross pairs come together each October
on the island, mate and the female lays a single egg. If the egg is lost, the
parents return to the sea until next year.
Mature birds without mates
may spend a good part of the year on the island trying to establish a pair
bond. Once they have a mate, the two select a nest site before returning to the
sea for the rest of the year
|The mating dance usually begins with bill
clapping between the two prospective mates. Sometimes multiple pairs will be
dancing in close proximity as shown here. Other times I noticed a pair of birds
dancing with a third bird hanging in close as if trying to get in on the
||The dance of the mating Laysan Albatross includes
some 25 movements some of which are pictured on this page. The bird on the left
is skypointing while the right most bird has tucked its bill under the left
|Here both birds are skypointing in unison. Notice
the band on the right bird. Not all birds born on the island are banded due to
lack of personnel.
||This pair seems to have
found one another. If a true pair bond is formed, the mates will scape out a
shallow depression for a nest. They will then go out to sea and return in the
fall to lay the first egg.
Birds are about 8 years old when they nest
the first time. If a mature bird loses its mate, it will come back to the
island as a singles and start trying to find a new mate.
takes two parents to feed a chick. After the chick is a few weeks old, both
parents leave it in its nest and go off to sea to find food. Parents may fly as
far as Alaska to find food for their chicks.
Notice the proximity of the
nest sites. Nest sites are at a premium on the island.
|The former military residences are now occupied
by employees from the refuge, oceanographic society, and Phoenix Midway which
runs the airport and the hospitality facilities. Notice the chick right by the
sidewalk. Unfortunately some of the building were painted with lead paint which
is now in the sand around the buildings. Chicks swallow the lead and those that
nest around the houses rarely survive.
||Singles and chicks on the lawn with the satellite
disk and a fire hydrant.
|While they are gone, the chick must fend for
itself while staying near the nest site so that the parents can find it when
When a parent returns, the chick pecks on its bill to
stimulate regurgitation. After feeding its own chick, the parents usually goes
to a nearby chick and abuses it severely pecking it on the back of the neck.
This keeps neighboring chicks from begging for food from the wrong parent.
and Black-footed Albatross chicks place their bills inside the parent's bill to
catch regurgitated food. Unlike Penguins they do not put their whole head into
the parent's mouth.
If one parent is lost, the other will continue to
try to raise the chick, but that chick will probably not get enough food and
| The little guy to the right is looking good and
starting to get his first white feathers.
On our first two days on the
island, a stalled front hung over the area dumping rain which caused flooding
of some areas .
| Here a wet Laysan chick waits in the nest for
the return of a parent with food.
Some 500 Laysan chicks died as a
result of the prolonged rain. Some drown when the water flooded their nests. It
was especially devastating for the Bonin Petrel chicks when their burrows
take a little break from the singles scene and fly over the lagoon to rest on
the water. There is little food anywhere near the island so after some time the
birds are forced to take to the sea to feed. During the feeding flights the
birds fly thousands of miles and some range as far north as Alaska.
|A military base always has a parade ground and of
course the Laysan Albatross love it. It is hard to imagine how the navy held
any parades here. Maybe we don't want to know. At any rate today it belongs to
The white flowered plants you see in many pictures are the
garden plant Alyssum. Most likely an escapee from the gardens first established
by the Cable company.
||You are not allowed to
take even one step off the road on path on the island. This is to protect the
Bonin Petrels and Shearwaters that nest in burrows underground.
you can see, you still get close photos.
|Building lights, electric wires, and airplanes
pose a hazard for the Albatross. Here a dead bird lies under the airport
terminal building probably attracted by the lights. The Friends of Midway are
currently raising money to put protective shields over the lights to reduce the
number of kills.
||Here Cynthia Vanderlip
of the Oceanic Society uses the dead bird to display the length of the wings.
Notice that she cannot stretch the wings out to their full length.
prevent airplane strikes all scheduled flights to Midway must land after dark.
Aloha Airlines runs one flight a week to the island. Incoming guests deplane
and the visitors from the previous week board for the flight back to Honolulu.
Don't take a change on missing your flight. Arrive in Honolulu a day