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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Trip Reports

Midway Atoll


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Midway Atoll NWR

Black-footed Albatross

Diomedea nigripes

Phoebastria nigripes


Black-footed Albatross sky pointing 

Black-footed Albatross dance is much like that of the Laysan  This bird is doing the sky pointing move. v The white flower in the background escaped from gardens maintained when families lived on Midway Atoll.

Black-footed Dance Similar to Laysan Albatross
Also known as the Black Goony, the Black-footed Albatross breed in smaller numbers on the island, preferring the edges near the ocean rather than the lawns and parade ground near the buildings, As you can see from the photos, the Laysan Albatross also inhabits these areas.

The Black-footed Albatross is often seen on west coast pelagics while the Laysan is only rarely seen.  For several years a Laysan Albatross was regularly seen near Point Arena in northern California where it became a favorite of the fishermen and surfers. I was able to see this bird several years in a row while visiting my sister who has a vacation home just south of Point Arena.   The bird has not been seen in recent years.It was probably a victim of long-line fishing.  I also saw a Laysan Albatross on a Monterey Pelagic.

The Black-footed performs a similar mating dance to the Laysan and like the Laysan unmated individuals return to their birth location to breed.  This is called site fidelity.

Black-footed Albatross dance 

One big difference in Black-footed dance is the outstretched wings rather than the preen under a single wing like the Laysan.

Black-footed Albatross dance moves. 

Laysan and Black-footed chicks are very alike at this stage. The Black-footed chick has darker more rubber looking feet. This photo is of a Black-footed chick.

Chicks are left alone while both parents are out scouring the ocean for food.  When a parent returns with food it drives away any chick not its own by pecking at the poor chick before starting to feed its own chick.  This looks really cruel but it insures that each set of parents feed their own chick.  A chick who loses even one parent will probably not survive.

It can be disasterous if a chick wanders too far away from its nesting place as the parents may just give up if they can't find their chick on their return from sea.  The parents trips may last several days.   While we were on Midway there was a rain storm that lasted two days.  This caused flooding of the breeding areas.  It was not uncommon to see a poor drenched chick standing in a pool of water waiting patiently for the parent to return.

Black-footed chick 

Black-footed Albatross feeding chick.



The chick pecks on the parent's bill begging to be fed. 

Black-footed feeds chicks

As the adult's mouth opens the chick places its peak sideways acoross the parent beak to catch the regugitated food.

 .Black-footed feeds chick

The parent then opens its bill and the chick inserts its bill crosswise into the parent's bill. The parent then regurcitates food into the chick's mouth.  Notice that this is a sandy area with low white flowering plants found on the edges of the island.

Hybrid Laysan X Black-footed 

Hybrids between the two species Laysan and Black-footed are not uniknown.  This bird appears to be a hybrid Laysan X Black-footed Albatross. 

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