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
In 2016, the Albatross Cam moved to a different property featuring four nests on camera (two fertile, two infertile), and a fifth just out of view. 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.
The parents of the central fertile nest featured in front of the cam under the ironwood tree are male Manawanui (KP796) and unbanded female Moana; they laid their egg on November 28, 2015. The parents on the upper nest to the right of Manawanui and Moana are female Mokihana (unbanded) and male Ikaika (KP194), and their egg was laid November 26. There is another fertile nest just out of site of the camera, downslope; the egg laid on December 3 is tended by parents male Ka`imi (KP688) and female Lilinoe (KP093).
There are also two infertile nests being tended by two female-female pairs: Pilialoha (K097) and Mahealani (KP672) are at the lower nest (beneath Mokihana and Ikaika); and Lawakua and Kiwahiwa are at the nest to the left of Manuwanui and Moana’s nest, near the driveway.
Last year’s on-camera parents continue to nest at the property that formerly hosted the cam from 2014-2015. We will update about these pairs over social media as we learn more about their nesting efforts from the Kauai Albatross Network.
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 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.