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Albatross Breeding Season 2022

By: Lola Frailey Wednesday November 17, 2021 comments Tags: albatross, protect the albatross, albatross chicks

albatross

August 2022

It's a wrap!

Albatross nesting season 2022 has officially come to a close. It was a challenging season for the albatross and it is clear the birds are struggling to find enough food.

We had one of our lowest hatch counts to date with just 5 adorable chicks. Given the food challenges we are so grateful all 5 chicks survived and have successfully fledged for life at sea. 

We hope you all enjoyed watching Lolita, our superstar chick this season as she grew week by week. She will be living life at sea for the next 4 to 7 years- soonest way may see her return is Spring of 2026!

The albatross nesting bluff will be quiet for two short months and then come early November the adult birds will return once again from life at sea and kick off nesting season 2023.

July 2022

Lolita has fledged!  

She was 5 months and 9 days old when she took flight for her big journey at sea. She will spend the next 4 to 7 years living at sea and soaring across the vast North Pacific Ocean.

We so hope she thrives and returns back to the colony for her courtship years...earliest we may see her return is Spring of 2026!

Lolita was our second chick to fledge. The day after she left a third chick fledged and now we are awaiting the fledge of our final two chicks. Updates to come soon!

Lolita day before fledgeLolita the day before she fledged

June 2022

Fledge time is nearing

Lolita is 21 weeks old

While we have not seen either of her parents since the end of February, we know they are both alive and well. How do we know? Lolita's growth - she is clearly well fed, growing consistently and meeting all the milestone markers we watch for.

When one of her parents returns with food they are literally on the ground for 15 to 30 minutes maximum. Just enough time to check she's alright and then regurgitate a belly full fo squid into her mouth. Then they are off to forage for her next meal.

Albatross singles bar

Lolita is in a bit of a unique situation. She is the only chick on our lower bluff this season. Typically there are at least a handful but it's been a tough season.

While she's not had the company of her parents since she was 3 weeks old she has not been entirely solo. Our colony's 4 to 7 year old aged birds arrive every Spring for courting. They are wild and rambunkshus, they are here to flirt and party. We call it the "albatross singles bar." 

So Lolita has been wildly entertained and also looked after. When the juvenile birds are not busy flirting, many take on a babysitter role to the chicks. Sitting guard next to them, making small talk and occasionally chasing off albatross dance parties that get too close to a napping chick. It's quite comical. 

The singles bar had its last call in early June and all juvenile birds have departed for life at sea once again. So now these last few weeks before she fledges, Lolita will be solo. But she has lots of prep for her big fledge to keep her busy.

More details to come on what her big fledge prep entails.


Lolita and her guardians

May 2022

We finally witnessed a squid meal delivery! 

With only 5 chicks in our colony this season the chance to witness a parent return from sea and feed their chick is slim.

But one day last week Lola was on the bluff as the Papa bird of our youngest chick arrived with a stomach full of food. 

Papa bird landed at 12:01pm and sprint waddled to his chick who could barely contain her excitement for food. "Chirp chirp chirp chirp." Within a minute of landing he began serving up multiple regurgitations of scrumptious squid directly into his chick's hungry mouth. After about 8 minutes his stomach was empty and hers full.

Albatross chick being fedYoungest chick being fed

Little time for rest

He then sat next to her for a brief rest. They shared a few bird talk squeaks and he preened a few of her feathers.

By 12:18pm, a mere 17 minutes after landing he was taking flight again. No time to waste, his chick is growing quickly and so is her appetite. Every meal needs to be larger than the last. 

A single food foraging trip currently takes approximately 10 days and requires Papa to fly at least 5000 miles. Albatross are experts in the air. Flying at speeds of 50 mph and have the amazing ability to navigate with half their brain while the other half sleeps. 

His chick is the youngest in our colony so he and his mate have at least another 8 to 10 weeks of meal deliveries.

Chick giving her Papa the look to say, "You are positive there is no more squid in your belly Papa?!"

Watch a video of the feeding on our Facebook page click here

Lolita and friends got their bling

Last week the biologists with the State Forestry and Wildlife Service banded all the albatross chicks in our colony. 

The banding process for each chick is fast. One biologist swiftly picks up and holds the chick and the second biologist smoothly fastens a band on each leg. In 30 seconds the chick is placed back on the ground with their new leg bling. 

Banding is the only time the chicks will ever be handled by humans. While the albatross don't need leg bands to keep track of who is who, the bands certainly help us humans. 

Fully grown albatross all look identical and many of you always ask us how we know who is who among the teen and adult albatross in our colony. It's their unique ID on their leg band that helps us tell them apart, know who survives at sea and who mates with whom. 

Lolita's unique ID number is J028. She is 15 weeks old this week and is about 5 to 7 weeks from fledge time. 

Lolita is 15 weeks old 

April 2022

Ruffles is back!!

Our 2017 Name That Chick superstar returned for the very first time last week! Ruffles is now 5 years old and is back for socialization and party time with the other adolescent birds.

Ruffles fledged at 5 months old back in July 2017. As all albatross chicks do, he took flight for life at sea solo and unguided. His webbed feet are back on solid ground for the first time in 5 years, and not just any ground. He's back to the exact ocean bluff he hatched on in February 2017. Yes, truly astonishing.

Ruffles is backRuffles as a chick, Spring 2017

Where has Ruffles been these past 5 years

He has been almost completely airborne foraging for squid and fish, desalinating salt water to stay hydrated and avoiding predators like sharks and long-line fishing.

Sure he has crossed flight paths with other seabirds and occasionally paused flight for a float on the ocean surface. While we don't know his exact whereabouts these past 5 years, we do know he has been somewhere within the 12 million square miles of the North Pacific Ocean and has clearly thrived. He must have felt the internal pull and used his amazing GPS navigation to return home. 

Welcome home Ruffles! We hope to see him return each Spring over the next few years as he flirts, dances and courts other albatross until he finds his lifelong mate...will be so interesting to see who he falls in love with.

Ruffles 5 years old (on left) Last week Spring 2022

Click here for video of the afternoon we discovered Ruffles on the bluff

Meet Lolita Lolita 11 weeks old

Our superstar has a name!

We would like to say a big mahalo to everyone who participated in this year's Name That Chick Contest. This year we received nearly 400 name suggestions! We love how much you all love following the albatross with us each season.

After a great family debate we all felt Lolita was the perfect name for this season's superstar. Lola did take extra convincing but with the countless hours she spends checking on the albatross it was only time to have a little Lola. 

Congratulations Lucy! You'll be receiving not only a noni gift parcel but more importantly bragging rights for 2022.

Lolita is now 11 weeks old 

She is the only chick this season on our lower bluff. But not to worry she is not alone, many of the young adolescents have arrived and are keeping her entertained with their rambunctious dancing and flirting. 

Albatross chicks are unable to forage for their own food and rely solely on their parents for meals. Each parent hunts solo at sea and then returns to deliver a scrumptious smoothie of regurgitated squid directly into their hungry chicks mouth. Currently Lolita is waiting as long as a week between meals.  

Lolita is growing quickly and we can see her white big-bird feathers growing underneath all her baby fluff. This is great news as it means her parents are both finding sufficient squid and have a good alternating feeding schedule going. 

March 2022

Chick D is this year's superstar! Chick D

Our annual Name That Chick Contest is ready for your submissions! 

Chick D received the most votes on our Facebook page. Help us give him/her a name.

Name That Chick Contest details:

  1. Name suggestions may be male or female
  2. You may enter multiple times. Please submit a new entry form for each name suggestion.
  3. All name entries must be submitted by April 2, 2022

The winning name will receive a noni gift parcel and bragging rights for naming our 2022 chick. The Noni gift parcel will contain one Noni Fruit Leather 2 oz packet and one 8 oz bottle of each Noni Lavender Lotion and IcyHeat Noni Lotion. 

Click the link below for the entry submission form. Winning name to be announced late April. Can’t wait to see this year’s submissions!

Name That Chick Contest Entry Form

A little mid season nesting recap

We started the season in November with 17 mating pairs nesting in our colony. Unfortunately 8 pairs ended up abandoning their nest during the 2 months of egg incubation. This left us with 9 nests with prospective egg hatches. Of the 9 nests we sadly lost 4 more. In two nests the egg did not successfully develop and in another two nests the chicks sadly did not survive the hatch. 

Although our colony's hatch count this season is low, we are thankful to see 5 of the cutest chicks who have captured our hearts and are growing quickly with each feeding.


The first two weeks post hatch

The chicks will have one of their parents always on the nest providing extra warmth, shielding them from rain, protecting them from predators and of course regurgitating frequent meals.This constant parental protection is very short.

At approximately two weeks old the chicks appetite becomes so demanding that both Mom and Dad will be required to forage at sea for meals. The chicks will be left solo in their nests first for short periods of time, maybe a few hours or overnight. However, this duration will quickly increase to days and then eventually weeks right before fledging time in mid July.

Pictured above: Curious Al, Allie and their newest offspring

Feb 2022

The albatross chicks are hatching!

Late in the afternoon on Jan 21st the first egg in our colony began to pip! 

The "pip" is the first little puncture or hole made by the chick to the outside world. It then takes 2 to 3 days for the chick to slowly chip away at its eggshell and fully hatch.

Proud Papa bird with his egg that has finally pipped

How do they do this? The chicks each have a temporary "egg tooth" on their bill. This is used like a little saw to make their grand entry. 

The parent on the nest does not physically assist with the eggshell chipping but lovingly encourages the chick. Peering into the egg pip, gently tapping the eggshell and making soothing chatter to their new offspring.

By our nest check on Monday morning the chick was fully hatched and we were blessed with the sight of the most adorable fluffy ball of feathers and the sound of the softest little peeps.

This first hatch of the season is none other than the newest offspring for our adventurous Curious Al and his mate Allie.

Oldest bird ever documented in our colony

We have more exciting albatross news - we found out last week one of the birds in our colony was banded as a chick in 1994! That makes her 28 years old and from our records is the oldest bird ever documented in our colony. 

She and her mate took last season and this season off from nesting. They have been enjoying spending time dancing, snuggling, preening and even flying out to sea together. 

Pictured below- she and her loving mate are back in the colony this week. They initially arrived for the season this past November and have been spending a week on land in the colony and then a couple of weeks at sea. Soon they will part ways and won't see each other again until the next nesting season in November '22.

Bird in foreground banded in 1994

The albatross singles bar is officially open


This time of the season also marks the return of the rambunctious juvenile albatross birds - they are the 4 to 7 year old birds and they like to party, as in dance party. 

We also call them the "teens" or "adolescents." They are arriving back daily to socialize, flirt and hopefully make a lasting connection with a mate.

The juvenile birds will hangout in the colony for a few days or week and then head out to sea to feed before returning again to join all the action - we call it the albatross singles bar. 

Some juveniles will be touching back on land for the very first time since they fledged as a chick. Yes! They have been living life in the North Pacific Ocean for 4 to 5 years and are now of age to start finding their lifelong mate.

Jan 2022

This season began with a mystery

By the first week of December we noticed an unusual trend that made us wonder...why? Five of our experienced and veteran mating pairs all opted out of nesting. 

They returned from months at sea, reunited with their mate and spent days snuggling, dancing and preening each other. They then departed for sea but when they returned they did not nest. Instead - they elected for more snuggles. 

It's normal for a pair to skip a season here and there, but five at once that's not. Plus, these five pairs have decades of nesting experience between their wings - we quickly realized these pairs know something that we don't know yet. But what?

The albatross are having a challenging time

Two months in and one thing is certain. This season is going to be very tough for those that nest. 

One reason appears to be a problem with their food supply. Mates are at sea feeding much longer which has extended the duration that their mate is without food on their nest. Is the supply of squid depleted? Is it the rising temperature of the ocean? Are the smells of the ocean changing so much that they are unable to navigate as they are accustomed to?

So far this season, eight of our seventeen pairs have had to abandon their nest. While this is difficult for us to discover, we realize that for their immediate survival their instincts are guiding them to give up breeding for this year.

On a happy note we still have 9 nesting pairs that have persevered the challenges. One of them being famous Curious Al and his mate. Their egg is expected to hatch first and it very well could be this weekend! Get ready for absolute cuteness!! 

Curious Al...any day now his egg will start to pip

Dec 2021

Egg adoption day

Every year in mid December a very special task is completed in our albatross colony - egg candling. An expert team of biologists arrive and we go nest by nest to confirm the fertility and viability of each egg.  

One biologist carefully removes the egg from under the nesting bird, hands it off to a second biologist who then swiftly candles the egg inside a wearable dark room. 

If the egg is deemed fertile it is returned to the nest and the parent happily settles back down on their egg. Eggs that are not fertile are removed and a fertile "adoptive egg" is returned to the nest in its place. The adoptive egg is almost always immediately accepted by the nesting parent. 


Egg being candled for fertility

Where do these "extra" fertile eggs come from? 

The Pacific Missile Range Facility is located on the West side of Kauai. And yes, some albatross have even chosen to nest there, creating a huge air traffic collision hazard. Biologists with the USDA Wildlife Services monitor the birds nesting at that location, removing and then incubating any eggs found to be fertile. These eggs are then re-homed into nests with infertile eggs in protected albatross colonies on the north shores of Kauai and Oahu.


Adoptive eggs being protected and heated on adoption day

This season we were surprised to find seven of the seventeen nesting pairs in our colony with an infertile egg. As with any species infertility can happen for a multitude of known and mysterious reasons.

We are beyond grateful for the collaboration of federal, state and private entities that make this egg adoption program possible.The chance at new life was gifted not only to the seven albatross pairs in our colony but to many other nesting pairs.

We are about 25 days out from the earliest possible egg hatch for our colony. Curious Al and his Lady laid the earliest egg - will it also be the first to hatch? Either way absolute cutness will start hatching late January! 

Reunited albatross mates

 

Nov 2021

Our first arrivals are here!!

Early Sunday morning there were two, then four, by the next evening thirteen and as of today 15. 

Who are these majestic sea birds? They are the Laysan albatross. The adult male birds almost always arrive first and patiently await the arrival of their female mate. 

She may keep him waiting a day, a week, or even two weeks before she arrives. But when she does her mate is ecstatic. On his feet squealing and bobbing up and down in delight at just the sight of her gliding by to line up for landing. Before her webbed feet have touched the ground he is waddling at sprinting speed in her direction! This is the first time they've seen each other in months, since the closure of last nesting season.

Remember Curious Al?

He gained quick fame last season becoming the first albatross to ever touchdown in the noni orchards. Many of you loved watching the video of him waddling over 3000 feet right on Lola's heels back to his mate  waiting on the bluff. Watch the rescue mission here

Happy to report he has not repeated this stressful oversight. This season he was one of the first two males back. His mate rewarded him and arrived the very next  day to reunite. Last season they took the year off from chick rearing but this season they are wasting no time. They snuggled, preened and reconnected. On our afternoon bluff check she appeared to be giving him her final nest prep instructions. Then they nuzzled each other's necks, clicked their bills together and off she strutted to the bluff's edge and took flight. 

Almost a sure sign that they've confidently mated. She will be at sea feeding until she has enough food energy to grow an egg. Upon returning she will grow and lay one egg the size of a soda can in just about 24 hours time. Incredible! Hopefully Curious Al gets busy on their nest site prep, aka lots and lots of pine needles to pile. Stay tuned as it looks like Curious Al and his mate are in the running for first egg lay of the season in our colony. 

Can't wait for our next albatross email update? Follow us @realnoni on Instagram and Facebook

We are so EXCITED to share this albatross season with you!

Lola Frailey

About the Author: Lola Frailey



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