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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: Laysan Albatrosses Nest at Midway Atoll

Air Date: Week of

A pair of adult Laysan Albatrosses. (Photo: Kristi Lapenta, USFWS, CC)

Many of us may feel like hibernating through the winter, but for the Laysan Albatross, this is the perfect time to get to work on nesting and raising chicks. BirdNote®'s Mary McCann has more.


BASCOMB: Well, many of us may feel like hibernating through the winter but for the Northern Albatross this is the perfect time to get to work on nesting and raising chicks. BirdNote’s Mary McCann has the story.

Laysan Albatrosses Nest at Midway Atoll
[Laysan Albatross - groaning, bill clacking, whinnies]

Midway Atoll, a small island more than 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu, is the winter home for nearly a million nesting albatrosses.

[Laysan Albatross moans, whinnies, bill clacking]

Most are Laysan Albatrosses, huge, handsome seabirds with white bodies and dark, saber-shaped wings six feet across. Laysans return to Midway in November to breed. Roughly 450,000 pairs wedge their way into a scant 2½ square miles of land, creating one of the world’s most spectacular seabird colonies.

[Laysan Albatross sounds – whinnies and bill clacking]

It may seem curious that Laysans nest in winter, when most birds nest in spring and summer. But these big birds forage mostly at night, so the longer hours of darkness in winter provide more time to find food for their rapidly growing chicks.

An adult Laysan albatross (background) and a young albatross chick (foreground). (Photo: Chuck Swenson, USFWS, CC)

Beginning in late January, when the single chick hatches, both parents will feed it for the next six months. And by mid-May, it may weigh seven pounds, even heavier than the average adult. The young bird will need that extra fat and energy, as it learns to fly.

[Laysan Albatross sounds - moans, whinnies, bill clacking]

By August, the once-noisy colony is all but empty — until next winter. I’m Mary McCann.

Written by Bob Sundstrom
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Laysan Albatross 959-2 (all sounds) recorded by E.Booth
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org January 2015 / 2020 Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# LAAL-01-2013-01-02 LAAL-01b

BASCOMB: For pictures, soar on over to the Living on Earth website, loe.org.



See this story on the BirdNote® website

Find out more about the Laysan Albatross at Cornell’s All About Birds


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