About a year ago, I fell in love at first sight…with a bird. I just discovered the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s bird cams page, and was spending a lot of time scrolling through looking at various cams. I never heard of a Laysan Albatross before, so I clicked the link. That’s when it happened.
There was a small, gray, downy chick on the screen. It was sitting in its nest looking around curiously, while a parent preened it. My heart melted immediately. My first thoughts:that chick was adorable and how sweet it was that the adult was so tender and affectionate. I’ve been hooked on Laysan Albatrosses ever since (or “albies” as some people call them). The more I watch and learn the more I fall in love with them.
So here are 11 cools facts about Laysan Albatrosses a.k.a. reasons why you should love them too 🙂 :
- Laysan Albatrosses are large seabirds that live mainly breed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. There is also a colony on Midway Island.
- When not breeding, Laysans spend their time out soaring across the Pacific Ocean. They can soar extremely long distances to look for food. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Laysan Albatross page, one albatross traveled 4,120 miles from Midway Island to the Philippines!
- Once they fledge (leave the nest to take their first flight) at around 6 1/2-7 months of age, young albatrosses with spend the next 3 or 4 years out at sea bef0re returning to land.
- Laysans typically form long lasting bonds. If a pair breeds successfully they will mostly likely continue to breed together. They usually returned to the same breeding spot each year. Most albatrosses won’t breed successfully until they are about 8 or 9 years old.
- Albatrosses are very social and curious birds. When they return to land after they are 3 or 4 they will form groups of 2 or more and do courtship dances. Sometimes a dance that starts as a pair will turn into a whole group displaying (us cam viewers refer to these as dance parties hah!). It’s good practice for when they actually choose a mate.
- Laysan courtship displays are elaborate and made up of a variety of moves. Sometimes the pair will try to synchronize their movements. Albatross “dance moves” include: beak clacking, standing on their toes, wild whinnying sounds, head bobs, placing their bill under a wing, and pointing their bills to the sky while making a “mooing” type sound (refered to as “sky moos” by viewers). Pairs have their own unique combinations of moves, and will usually greet each other with a courtship display to strengthen their pair-bond. (If you’ve never seen a Laysan courtship display you should open a new tab in your browser right now and Youtube that immediately. You will not be disappointed.)
- Laysan Albatrosses can have 1 egg a year. Parents take turns incubating the egg. Once the egg hatches the parents will continue to take turns brooding (keeping their chick warm) until the chick is about 2-3 week old. After that they will leave the chick by itself to go hunt but return every so often to feed it and spend time with the chick.
- Laysans can journey up to 1,600 miles away to find food for their chicks. A parents can be gone for up to 17 days while searching for food!
- Albatross chicks go through 2 layers of down feathers before they start getting their adult flight feathers. The best part: they start to lose their 2nd coat of down in little chunks so they look like they have little “feather boas” around their necks and “silly hairdos”. (You should Google that right now too, it’s very cute)
- When full grown, albatrosses can have wingspans of up to 7 feet! Each Laysan has a unique feather pattern on the underside of their wings, just like we each have unique fingerprints.
- Laysans have long life spans. The oldest know individual is Wisdom, who breeds on Midway Island. She just had her 36th chick and she is 64 years old! You can learn more about her at this Audubon article.
Laysan Albatrosses are amazing birds. I recommend you check out the Cornell Lab’s Albatross cam to see these beautiful birds in action. Warning: you may become addicted to albatross cam (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing :-P). . Maybe you’ll feel some “Albie love” too.