Females place their nests on sparsely vegetated ground, typically close to a small shrub if available.
On sandy islands such as Midway and Laysan, the female lies in the sand and scrapes out a hollow with her feet. By rotating around, she forms a circular depression, then gives the nest a low rim by assembling twigs, leaves, and sand picked up from the immediate area around the nest. On larger islands such as Kauai, Hawaii, the birds nest more often on grass or under trees and build the nest rim from leaf litter, ironwood needles, and twigs. The nest (including rim) is about 3 feet in diameter and a couple of inches deep. Often the female continues nest construction while incubation is under way.
Creamy white with brown spotting.
Condition at Hatching
Covered in gray-white down giving a salt-and-pepper appearance; eyes are open; weighing about 7 ounces.
Laysan Albatrosses eat mainly squid as well as fish eggs, crustaceans, floating carrion, and some discards from fishing boats. They feed by sitting on the water and plunging with their beaks to seize prey near the surface. Adults with chicks to feed take foraging trips that last up to 17 days and travel 1,600 miles away from their nest (straight-line distance).
Laysan Albatrosses make a variety of whining, squeaking, grunting, and moaning calls on the breeding grounds, particularly during courtship.more sounds
About the Albatrosses
This year’s nest features Mahealani (KP672) and Pilialoha (K097), a female-female pair that spent time incubating an infertile egg on camera last year. Female-female pairs are relatively common in albatross colonies, and their commonness can change with the availability of suitable male mates and the success of prior nesting attempts. As with last year, this year one of the females in this pair laid an infertile egg. This year, however, several organizations involved in the conservation and management of albatrosses replaced the infertile egg with a fertile one from the Pacific Rim Missile Facility. Nesting must be discouraged along an active runway there to decrease the likelihood of collisions between the albatrosses and aircraft. Because the egg was saved from a nest at the facility, a young albatross will now have a chance at life with its foster moms.
This effort is part of a larger operation each year when biologists from the U.S. Navy gather eggs from nests at the facility to discourage nesting there. Researchers from Pacific Rim Conservation candle these eggs to assess their fertility. Viable eggs are then substituted for infertile eggs at other nests around the island, as well as helping to establish new colonies. Working together, the Kauai Albatross Network (KAN) and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources placed 14 eggs at fenced properties with good albatross nesting habitat and landowners who manage for invasive predators such as cats, rats, and pigs.
All of the birds were given names by a Hawaiian kumu, or teacher (Learn more about their names.). It’s very difficult to tell adults apart by sight unless you can glimpse their band numbers. Laysan Albatrosses are large seabirds, though they are small compared to other albatrosses. They measure about 2.5 feet long and can weigh 10 pounds. Their wingspan is about 7 feet.
Albatrosses lay only one egg per year at most. Incubation takes about 64 days. The two parents take turns incubating the egg, with the male taking the first shift. Incubation shifts can last several weeks, and the incubating bird fasts during that time. After hatching, the parents go on long foraging trips during which they may travel 1,600 miles and stay away for up to 17 days. The chick takes about 5.5 months to grow to adult size and take to the air. Once in flight, these young birds will not touch land again for 3–5 years.
About the Nest
These Laysan Albatross nests are on the property of a private residence on the north shore of Kauai, near the town of Kilauea, Hawaii. The nest is a neat bowl of dry ironwood needles, wood chips, and other vegetation, placed directly on the ground. Ornamental shrubs and palms help shade the nest from the tropical sun. A neat lawn leads away from the nests to a steep bluff over the Pacific Ocean, providing an excellent runway for the adults and, eventually, the chick, to take off.
Thanks to the landowners, who wish to remain anonymous, for allowing us access to this nest and to the property manager for helping to maintain the camera during the season. We are also grateful for the help of the Kauai Albatross Network for finding this albatross nest.
More questions about the albatrosses? Check our Albatross Cam FAQ page.