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
There are two nests featured on camera this year. All of the birds were given names by a Hawaiian kumu, or teacher (Learn more about their names.). It’s very difficult to tell the two parents 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 nest in front of the cam under the palm tree are mom Malumalu (K312) and dad Ko’olau (KP975); they are the parents of Mango who featured on last year’s Albatross Cam. Both were banded as adults in 2008 and it is thought that they fledged around 2003 or earlier. They were sighted courting here in 2012-2013.
The parents of the chick on the nest under the banana tree to the left of Malumalu and Ko’olua are dad Akamai (K039) and mom Ala (A379). Ala was banded in 2014 and was actually seen on the Albatross Cam starting in mid-March last year. Ala could be a new mate for Akamai. She also might be his previous unbanded mate. Last year the pair abandoned their nest, which is common when birds choose to sekip a breeding year. Two years ago they raised a healthy chick that successfully fledged.
There is a nest just out of site of the camera close to the driveway; the parents are dad Kuapo’i (K426), and mom Kalana (unbanded). Two years ago they raised a healthy chick that successfully fledged.
Last year’s on-camera parents are also nesting on the property at a site out of view. Although they are banded, we don’t know exactly how old Kaluakane (K325) and Kaluahine (KP762) are because they were banded as adults. They are at least ten years old. They have been together for at least two years, although their egg failed to hatch two years ago. Last year they raised Kaloakulua, the star of the first season.
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
This Laysan Albatross nest is in the yard 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 about 150 feet to a steep bluff over the Pacific Ocean, providing an excellent runway for the adults and, eventually, the chick, to take off. There is another Laysan Albatross nest in the same yard, about 30 feet from this one.
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 grateful for the help of the Kauai Albatross Network for finding this albatross nest, and to kumu Sabra Kauka for naming the albatrosses.
More questions about the albatrosses? Check our Albatross Cam FAQ page.