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Laysan Albatrosses Nest at Midway Atoll

Why do they nest in winter?

Midway Atoll is the winter home of nearly a million nesting albatrosses. Laysan Albatrosses return to Midway in November to breed. Roughly 450,000 pairs wedge their way into a scant 2½ square miles of land surface. And why do Laysans nest in winter? Well, the 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. And just how big do the chicks get? By mid-May, they may weigh seven pounds, half a pound heavier than an average adult. The young birds will need that extra fat - and energy - as they learn to fly.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Laysan Albatrosses Nest at Midway Atoll

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.
[Laysan Albatross - groaning, bill clacking, whinnies]
Welcome to Midway Atoll! More than 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu – winter home to nearly a million nesting albatrosses. Gathered together, they make a splendid racket. [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 surface – 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. Well, the 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.
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 an 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, the spectacle complete, as the albatross multitude returns to life on the ocean – until next winter.
Today’s BirdNote brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation. I’m Michael Stein.
###
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
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org       January 2013          Narrator: Michael Stein

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

Key links to document population and conservation facts:
http://www.fws.gov/midway/laal.html
http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seabirds/albatrosscount.pdf

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